Failure can be frightening, but what if it was in fact the key to success? Failure gives us the opportunity to bounce back, to learn from our mistakes, and helps us appreciate success.
Winston Churchill reminds us, "success is all about going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." In fact, we are often afraid of failure because we forget that it’s not definitive. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that failure is far from being an end in itself, but that in order to move forward, we must accept the possibility of failure. Finally, without failure it would be difficult to appreciate success and to flourish.
What is failure?
The perception of failure changes depending on the culture. In France, for example, people often deny it when it happens, forgetting that it's not definitive and that it doesn't define us. Elsewhere, in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries among others, failure is on the contrary an indicator of our capacity to succeed. In contrast to a linear path without any obstacles, failure allows us to learn to overcome difficulties: it allows for rebounding. There is therefore no need to be ashamed of it!
From the culture of failure to the culture of rebounding
In countries where failure is frowned upon and faultless courses are valued, it can be difficult to get off the beaten track. When the culture of failure is dominant, it's better to lead a life with few challenges, as the likelihood of failure is lower. In fact, the likelihood of surpassing oneself is also lower. In the culture of failure, therefore, the fear of failure dominates. We also often talk of our successes while omitting to mention the obstacles we have overcome. This directly reinforces this feeling.
This view of success obscures the fact that the road to success is sometimes fraught with obstacles, and that these obstacles must be overcome in order to achieve one's goals. On the journey, it's possible to stumble and experience failure. Is this bad? No, because we can always get up, learn from our mistakes and continue on our way. That's why, unlike the culture of failure, there is the culture of rebounding; because after each failure, it's possible to bounce back and transform the difficulties of the past into the strengths of the present.
Failure isn’t definitive
As Marcel Proust used to say, "there is no easy success, nor definitive failures". In the culture of rebounding, failure is anything but definitive. On the contrary: failure is even an initiator of change, and therefore of progress. Let's take a concrete example: a child learning to walk. His first steps will be preceded and followed by numerous falls until he is able to walk. Is this a reason to tell this child to stop walking because he keeps falling? No, because each fall teaches him to control his balance and progress.
In fact, this principle applies throughout our lives: after each fall, or each failure, we can get up, persevere and learn from our mistakes. Failure is by no means definitive, it's simply a stage in our journey. Moreover, in the scientific field, failure is even valued! Indeed, it allows us to invalidate a hypothesis, to increase our knowledge and to redirect research in another direction.
For example, if you were working on a project and you missed a key element that got you completely off track because the project was a stretch for you that exceeded your current level of ability. When you discovered it, your deadline loomed over you and you panicked, fearing you would not come through for your team and look like an idiot. You could freeze and fall or you could pause and think clearly through the mistake, making fast corrections and putting in a massive effort to come through. While you might feel exhausted from the effort, you have grown tremendously. You are sharper, stronger and healthier, ready to take on even greater challenges. The project not only was a stretch for you, it in fact stretched you. Your confidence takes a boost and you now think of yourself in expanded terms. This would have never happened if you had remained within what you already knew, where you were comfortable. The experience allowed you to learn about yourself and your subject matter, increase your awareness and expand your abilities. Your failure lead to greater success.
Failure puts the key to success within reach
Failure is therefore not the end, but only a stage in our journey. If it crosses our path and we know how to draw the necessary lessons from it, it even allows us to question ourselves when it's necessary and by doing so, it moves us forward.
Failure is the first step to success
Let's imagine that you have a project in mind that is close to your heart. You have two possibilities:
- Motivate yourself and try to do it, at the risk of encountering disappointments.
- Stay where you are and let this project go by, without the risk of failure in accomplishing it.
What do you prefer? Asking this question makes you realize that the only way to never fail is to never try. But then, what's better between risking failure by moving forward, and staying in our comfort zone at the risk of regretting it later? It's up to you, the decision is yours.
In order to succeed, you must try, and by the same token accept the possibility of failure. And if failure does occur, you must learn to draw the necessary conclusions to recover stronger from it.
Learning from failures to get the key to success
It's by putting ourselves into action that we can experience failure. But if this action allows us to learn, to test hypotheses, even if it proves to be unsuccessful, is it still a failure? After all, "practice makes perfect", and it's by failing that one gains experience. By learning from our blunders, we can evolve by identifying our areas for improvement so that we don't repeat the same mistakes over and over again. By doing so, it's even possible to anticipate future obstacles, which makes it possible to prepare as well as possible to face them.
Later on, we may encounter new difficulties, but they will be different, and the experience gained will allow us to overcome them more easily. Little by little, we will transform these failures into assets and they will help us grow, get closer to our goals and grasp the key to success.
Find oneself and appreciate success through failure
As Nick Gleason said, "Success is the accumulation of failures, mistakes, false starts, confusion and the willingness to continue despite everything". Failure is therefore by no means definitive, and associated with perseverance, it can even prove very useful in your journey. It allows you to pause and reflect on what has put you in check. In doing so, you can consider alternatives that you might not have thought of and that will help you in the pursuit of your project. In this way, failure can be beneficial. Moreover, it must be admitted that living through it allows you to appreciate the full flavor of success later on!
Failure to refocus on yourself and then aim for success
Failure, when it occurs, cuts us off from our action and forces us to stop for a few moments. But this forced pause offers us an ideal time for introspection and reflection, allowing us to take stock of the road we have travelled.
This time of rest is also the perfect opportunity to listen to our little inner voice, and to question ourselves on our journey. Do we like what we are doing? Are we fulfilled? Do we dream of doing something else before we start? It's important to answer these questions with kindness and self-compassion. In particular, these questions will help us to refocus on what we love.
Failure can thus be seen as an intersection on our journey: it allows us to change course and accept new opportunities that we hesitated to seize before. It's from failures that many successes are born. For example, did you know that if J.K. Rowling hadn't been fired, she probably never would have written Harry Potter? Proof, if proof were needed, that failures are in fact opportunities to reinvent ourselves and find our way!
Knowing failure to appreciate success
It's likely that someone who has never experienced failure will find it difficult to appreciate success. A person for whom success is normal is likely to find it difficult to rejoice in a new success. They may even lose humility because they have noticed that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. But that only lasts for a while, and failure is all the more difficult to bear for someone who has never had to face it before.
A fall allows us to learn from our mistakes and to understand our peers. Thus, in addition to making us grow, failure also makes us humble. It allows us to understand that missing something does not make us a failure. This is true for us, but also for others.
Finally, failure allows us to learn to appreciate success and to be grateful for what we have. When the key to success comes to us after that, we can savor it all the more.