Albert Einstein once said, “If you've never failed, you've never tried anything new.” How often have you failed and how do you feel about your failures? Many famous people failed before achieving their dreams. Beethoven’s music teacher told him he had no talent as a child. Eleven different publishers rejected ‘Harry Potter’, but JK Rowling kept on trying. Of course not everyone will achieve their dream, but not all musicians play music hoping for fame and not all writers write wanting to make a fortune. Many artists write, make music and paint for no other reason than they enjoy it. At the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing? Our endeavours need to enrich our own lives, not just impress other people. I don’t have anything against success. In fact we should all have the courage to aim for success. However, I don’t think anyone should ‘need’ success. Instead you need to respect yourself and be proud of how you live your life. External validation from others is nice, but not essential. And it is okay to fail. It is okay to try a new venture and see it blow up in your face! It may not be ideal, but it is okay.
Failure is not the end, it’s the beginning
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The truth is that everyone gets it wrong sometimes – we all fail. And you need to accept, even embrace your failings. It can be helpful to learn from what you did wrong. Never view failure as a measure of yourself or self-worth. Instead, remember that failure is often a precursor to success. It teaches you valuable lessons. Robert Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
People who expect a great deal of themselves often don’t deal well with failure. Doing badly at one exam doesn’t mean you are stupid. One failed commercial venture doesn’t make you a bad business person. You need to tell yourself that you can and will bounce back. You need to value yourself because you are resilient.
Focus on the positives
No one is perfect. We all have weaknesses. After failing you may be tempted to think that you are bad at everything. That is rubbish. Remind yourself that you are good at many things. You may be a good listener, a good mother, a food friend, musical, kind, a good gardener. Do not dwell on your failings, instead focus on your strengths and write down everything that is right about your life.
Talk to friends
It is easy to beat yourself up. Go to a friend for advice. Be honest about your short-comings and regrets. If you need some reinforcement, openly ask a friend what you do right. Ask a friend or family member to tell you how they have failed in the past. Most people have stories of failing in the past and the struggles they’ve had to come to terms with them.
Be realistic in apportioning blame
If you have failed, admit it, but do not take on more than you should. If you have failed a client because your work didn’t have the resources then don’t blame yourself. If a project went badly because a colleague was slack, don’t own it. By understanding what you can control and what you can’t, you set yourself up to succeed in the future.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher.” It is true we learn little from our successes. The truth is that we can’t fear failure. It’s always a possibility and regardless of what you do in life, you should be prepared for the worse. If you can face the worse, then you are set and success is only an added bonus not a prerequisite for happiness. The other tech giant, Steve Jobs, said, “You’ve got to be willing to fail, to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing you won’t get very far.”
Understand failure will hurt
In life we will encounter pain. Failure hurts. You can’t escape that, and it is alright to feel pain, just don’t get lost in the pain. I often recommend setting time limits to feeling bad, for example you can have 30 minutes every day lamenting your losses but outside that time you need to discipline your mind and focus on the future and going forward. Use failure as a prompt to examine your life and your choices. Do not use it as a weapon against yourself! The world is a hard place, you need to be on your side – not your own worst enemy, so forgive yourself your failings and get on with living.
Remember you are not the only person who has failed – you are in great company!
Dr Seuss, one of the most celebrated children’s authors, tried to get a PhD in literature in Lincoln College, Oxford, but failed and dropped out. After he wrote his first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, it was rejected 28 separate times however by 1991, at the time of his death, he had sold over 600 million copies of his books in 20 different languages.
Fred Astaire’s career in the entertainment industry lasted for seventy-six years, but he was rejected during an early Hollywood screen test and the producer wrote, “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Dances a little.”
Henry Ford is the father of the car but Ford’s first company went bankrupt and so did his second. After a dispute with partners, he was forced to walk away with only the rights to his name.
Jim Carrey grew up poor and worked as a janitor to help his family pay the bills. At his first performance at Yuk Yuk’s, a comedy club in Toronto, he was booed off stage.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare, trying to support her daughter. It took her seven years to write the story of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and when she finished, 11 major publishing houses rejected the book.
Katy Perry, the singer and songwriter, only sold 200 copies before her record label went out of business. She was dropped from two other labels. It took her nearly ten years of failure before she released the critically-acclaimed hit song, I Kissed a Girl, in 2008.
Oprah Winfrey was born to a single-mother living on welfare. She was physically, mentally and sexually abused during her childhood. She ran away at thirteen-years old, and got pregnant at fourteen-years old. But she later lost the baby shortly after birth. She was also fired from her first job for being unfit for television.
Horror writer Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books, not to mention the royalties for movies and television series based on his books. However, he threw his first book, Carrie, into the trash after it was rejected by 30 publishers. Fortunately his wife retrieved it and the rest is history!
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.