As a kid, did you ever show off on the playground and totally embarrass yourself instead? In school, did you ever experience that dreaded moment in front of the class when you forgot the poem you just had memorized? Or, I can hit closer to home: have you ever showed up unprepared for a presentation you didn’t know about? Had to report a significant loss on an investment, or admit that a project simply didn’t work? Have you ever been rejected? Nobody likes to fail. It’s painful. It creates a deep-seated fear of the letter “F” written in red marker. This fear is what keeps us from even trying to achieve the dreams we treasure deep down inside.
But we only fear failure because we don’t understand its true nature.
1. Failure Is Perception
We live in an image-centric world where everyone shares and announces their success only. We cover up our failures as if they don’t exist. It creates a false idea that everyone around you is doing incredibly well. And a false perception that in comparison, you’re clearly lacking — and probably the only one. When people see me today, it’s easy to see only my success. But let me tell you, it took a LOT of failures to get where I am today.
When people see me today, it’s easy to see only my success. But let me tell you, it took a LOT of failures to get where I am today. All those people out there that seem to be constantly winning at life? They’ve definitely failed before they reached those goals.
2. Failure Is a Stepping Stone
If we didn’t fail, we’d never achieve our dreams. I’ll even go a step further: You can’t achieve your dreams without failing along the way. Failure helps us learn what we will need down the road. Stepping stones might appear to be blocking the way of the stream, but they are showing the way across it. Failure looks like an obstacle, but it’s the necessary step to get to the next place we need to be.
3. Failure Is Redirection
Have you ever seen a huge boulder in the middle of a stream? It’s so formidable, it splits one stream into two. The stone changes the flow and the shape of the river. Failure can do the same thing. Sometimes our failures lead us in entirely new directions, to things we didn’t even know we were meant to be doing.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s story is a great example of this. Few people know that the famous wrestler and actor’s original dream was to be an NFL player. He started out in the Canadian Football League, playing for the Calgary Stampeders. At 22, he’d just played his first pro game in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions. He had arrived one step closer to his NFL dream.
Then two days after he got to Vancouver, he was cut from the team. He returned home with $7 in his pocket and a fistful of crushed dreams. At first, Johnson felt like his world had been turned upside down. His hopes of making it in the NFL had vanished. In reality, he says making it in the NFL was the best thing to never happen to him.
It was this failure that led him into professional wrestling and, later, Hollywood superstardom. Dwayne Johnson and I don’t have a ton in common, but we do have this: I too have failed (many times) in my path to success. I’m so thankful I’m not still running my first business, selling driveway sealant door-to-door! To this day, my failures are what guide me forward.
When a failure redirects your plans and even your dreams, just keep plugging forward in that new direction. Many times, it will lead you to even greater success than your original dream.
4. Failure Is Forward Motion
Did you know that Warren Buffett has failed numerous times in his long, storied career? In fact, his decision to buy Berkshire Hathaway was initially a huge failure. At the time, the company was a group of textile factories. He bet that the textile industry was going to come back strong, and he was completely wrong. But Buffett kept moving forward. He accepted his losses. Instead of retreating, he transformed the business into an incredibly successful holding company. And he’s earned billions in the process.
How Will YOU Fail?
Failure is inevitable for all of us The next time you fail, take a deep breath and be thankful. Think about what you are learning from it. Then go forward and channel that into greater things.