(excerpted from Ed Brodow’s book, Getting a Success Change)
One of the most abusive concepts human beings live with is called failure. According to Webster’s Dictionary, to fail is “to be lacking or insufficient; fall short.” “To be unsuccessful in obtaining a desired end.” A failure is “a person who does not succeed.” We are all aware of the conventional associations with the word failure. I would like to debunk a popular myth about this awesome and often fearsome concept.
Myth: Failure is the opposite of success.
As we revere success, so do we abhor failure. In Western culture, failure is regarded as the direct opposite of success. In truth, it is an integral part of success because it contributes to the learning process. You cannot improve your knowledge, refine your expertise, bolster your competence, or perfect your technique without failing and learning from the experience.
Life can be looked at as a series of small and large failures punctuated by success. If life required you to wait till you were perfect before you were entitled to act, you would never get out of bed: “I’m still waiting. I surely don’t want to make any mistakes. I don’t dare get up yet.”
Life is, in fact, a process of learning through our mistakes, not in spite of them. It is a dynamic process in which you cannot get it right until you get it wrong first. So in spite of its usual negative connotation, failure is actually the catalyst for success.
Look at any inventor, any pioneer, and you will see that they tried and failed and tried and failed until they finally figured out what they were doing. A classic example is the famous inventor Thomas A. Edison. Edison tried over a thousand materials until he found the one that would make a filament for his light bulb that would not fizzle and burn in seconds. We do not remember Edison as a failure for the 999 substances that were a miss. We remember him for the one that was a hit.
Another example is Richard Nixon. After losing the 1960 presidential election to John Kennedy, many pundits wrote him off completely. He did disappear from the national scene for a while, but never lost his famous ambition. Years later he re-emerged and won the presidency twice.
To paraphrase a line from the movie Gigi: Sometimes instead of succeeding at first, we succeed at last.