The Japanese automaker and industrialist Soichiro Honda once said that “Success is 99% failure.” If that is true-and we will make the assumption here that it is-then it seems that failure is a good thing and will result in a positive end. You may be familiar with the story of Thomas Edison, who is said to have failed about a thousand times before he discovered the material that made his light bulb work. Edison may be the epitome of the idea that success is intimately tied to failure; it is a series of many practice runs on the way to an ultimate goal.
The challenge we face is accepting and acknowledging our failures as positive experiences. If you have not succeeded in losing weight after trying your fifth type of diet or perfected your tango dancing after an entire series of lessons or not improved your sales quota despite spending extra hours at the office, it can be discouraging.
However, what may appear to be negative circumstances and hopeless events actually may be helpful occurrences. How helpful? Here are seven ways you can benefit from failure.
Failure is a teacher. Although failure may not be your favorite teacher, it can be a highly efficient one if you choose to consider it in that light. When we fail at something, we are also learning what not to do the next time.
Failure makes us better mentors. The best mentors are those who can most completely identify and empathize with their students. If you have stumbled and failed, wouldn’t you want someone who has been there to listen to you and be supportive? Your failures make you uniquely qualified to be a support system, coach and/or mentor for others.
Failure keeps you on your toes. When you fail, you are reminded not to become lazy or complacent. Life is ever evolving. You can have a fortune one moment and lose it all in seconds. Your company may downsize without notice. Don’t count on past success to guarantee you a successful future. It pays to be positive and alert to all possibilities, challenges, and opportunities.
Failure can restore your resolve. Once you shake yourself out of a slump you may feel after failing with a diet, straying miles away from your planned budget, or not getting a job you thought you had in the bag, it’s time to restore your resolve to reach your goal. Allow failure to help you renew your sense of purpose.
Failure fuels creative ideas. Say you failed to reach a sales goal, or the studio turned down your artwork for display, or your latest cake recipe flopped. Perhaps it’s time to be creative and find a novel way to get what you desire. Don your creativity cap and let your mind meditate on how you can transform your failure into a raging success-or at least a satisfying one! Think outside the box.
Failure helps banish fears. Let’s face it: most of us are afraid of failing. Rather than leave a job we dislike, we stay because we are afraid of facing the unknown. Will the grass be greener on the other side? However, if we face that fear, once we get on the other side, the unknown will become familiar, and with growing familiarity comes confidence.
Failure attracts support. When we are down and out, we give out signals, no matter how well we think we are hiding our disappointments. That’s when we can count on some of our family, friends, and coworkers to step up and offer a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, or other forms of assistance. It can take a village to get through a failure, so don’t turn help away. You can learn much from the experience, strengthen your support system, and even have an opportunity to reciprocate in the future.
According to biopsychologist Nigel Barber, PhD, “With success, people keep on doing the same thing. When they fail, they are forced to adapt and change. That is not just a human characteristic but constitutes a basic feature of how the mammalian brain works.”
Failure=adaptation=change=success. It is a winning formula for a better and successful life.
Barger N. On the benefits of failure. Psychology Today 2013 Feb 14
Waits K. 7 surprising benefits of failure. Wisebread 2016 Jul 6