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The Art of Failure: If You Don’t Fail, You Won’t Learn Anything

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It’s strange to me how afraid of failure we are as a society. It is almost uniformly seen as something bad. To fail, the idea seems to be, is to fall short, not succeed, desert or let down. Very rarely do we hear about how failure can be an opportunity to learn, grow or understand. And that’s a real shame because as a result, we have created a culture where we askew even trying. For it is better not to try than to fail when you do.

This has infected all parts of our society, from our schools on upwards. That’s terrible, as  at school is when our children should try to fail as much as possible. After all, they might succeed at some pretty outrageous things as they do so.

Also in our working life, there are plenty of examples of people who are so afraid of failing that they end up being failures – never having left their comfort zone, never having tried anything different. And that while failure has so much to offer!

A freelancing friend of mine has set it as her goal to get a rejection a week. This has entirely changed her frame of reference. No longer is failure something to be feared, but instead, it’s something she has embraced. And the best part? As she works so hard to send out enough applications to actually get rejected that often, she actually gets her work accepted plenty of times as well. As a result, she’s far more successful than most of the freelancers I know who follow a more regular strategy. That, right there, is the power of reimagining failure and seeing it as a stepping stone to success.

The road to success

Life isn’t easy and there are almost no shortcuts to success. In fact, this idea that there are people who are famous overnight turns out to be a myth. The reason is simple – for while you might claim the spotlight for a little while – how can you keep it if you don’t actually have anything that sets you apart from the world at large? Despite this idea that we can become famous with little or no skill, the truth is that this isn’t really fame. It’s only a flash in a pan.

Those people who do end up getting lasting fame or lasting success, on the other hand, often have made skill and have been slaving away, trying new things and – yes – failing in near obscurity for a very long time. But we don’t really hear that much about that as we only hear about them when they are suddenly catapulted into the spotlight. We don’t find out about the life before their fame, or when we do we reimagine it as an inevitable journey, whereby they must have deep down always known they were going to be successful, so their failures weren’t really that. They were just preparatory lessons. We even have a name for that. In psychology, we call it ‘hindsight bias’.

But of course, it doesn’t work like that. Yes, it’s easy to see the hand of inevitability when the journey is done. But when you’re there, in the middle of it, you don’t know where your tries will end up. Failure then feels like a failure for everybody else – like you tried something that didn’t work.

Then, suddenly, somewhere down the road something you tried works or – more often – something that you thought was a failure at the time turns out to have just taken longer than you expected.

And overnight, you’re successful. You turn from an unnamed writer to somebody who works for Buy Prof Essays or your business gets the attention it deserves, or you get to act in a film, or whatever else your dream may be.

It takes a few tries

Interestingly, there are people who are aware of the power of failure. Very often, if you’re trying to get money for an investment, the investors will look at what other things you’ve done in life. Sure, successes will impress them, but often failures will as well. Because ultimately somebody that’s dealt with failure is more valuable than somebody who hasn’t dealt with anything at all.

After all, every career is a rollercoaster where things go up and down and take all sorts of unexpected turns. If you’re going to give money to somebody, then you want them to be capable of dealing with those swerves and curves. Now, success isn’t that hard to cope with. Most of us can manage that. But failures? Those are the tough ones. They’re the moments when you need to see that somebody can pick themselves back up again and turn the situation around.

Somebody that has a few failures under their belt is far more likely to be able to do that than somebody who has always played it safe. After all, every time you fail you’ll (hopefully) say, ‘okay, we shouldn’t try that again’ or ‘maybe we should have done that differently’.

So what is the difference between failing and being a failure?

As I’ve already pointed out, those who don’t try are more likely to be failures than those who do. So that’s one way that you can end up being a failure – don’t even take a shot. Are there any other ways to end up a failure?

There sure are. You can fail and be a failure if you refuse to learn the lesson you should. And how do you know you’re not learning that lesson? Because you keep making the same mistake. Does the same thing keep happening to you over and over again? Do you make enough money but not have enough at the end of the month? Do you keep sending out mix tapes but never get a response? Or do you keep ending up with partners who are bad news?

Well, now you’re on the road to being a failure. Of course, you can still turn things around. All you need to do is learn the lesson that’s in front of you. What is that lesson? Do things differently, of course. Because that’s what failing teaches us better than all – what we’re doing wrong and should do better the next time.

And if we can keep doing that over and over again, then eventually somebody will say of our lives ‘well, that they were going to be a success was inevitable’.

About the Author

Jeannette Hooten is a content writer at, a private English tutor, and an avid reader of news and literature. She helps students to stay motivated, be more productive and complete their writing tasks. Jeannette frequently speaks and writes about education, lifestyle, mindfulness, motivation and productivity tips.

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About Anas Alaoui

Anas Alaoui

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