The Benefits of Failure
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffet
I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite some time. Let me start by saying that if you’ve never failed, you’ve done nothing in your life. I know it sounds harsh, but if you take any risks, you will also fail. If you don’t take any risks, you will also fail… but fail to live your life to the fullest. That’s because failing IS part of life.
The majority of people are so scared to make decisions, so afraid to take any risks, so afraid to make a move, that they spend their entire life living on the sideline. They just keep waiting for something to happen rather than taking action themselves.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Fear is just a feeling wired into our brains. We fear public speaking yet we don’t fear driving our cars every day. But without even looking at any statistics, I can assure you that public speaking is much safer than driving a car.
When you’re willing to take risks in life, fear, anxiety and failure is something that you have to live with. Use them as motivators rather than barriers against your own success. You have to be willing to fail a lot to succeed. People tend to dwell on their mistakes too long. When I make a mistake, I always try to solve the issue swiftly and move on. No person is mistake free. In fact, I consider mistakes a “life lesson.” With each mistake, you become smarter. Dwelling on mistakes will bring you down. Thinking of life lessons will empower you to keep trying. In other words, failure is learning. Don’t ever stop learning.
One of my favorite speeches in recent time is J.K. Rowling’s Commencement Speech at Harvard University in 2008. If you haven’t seen that speech (and I’m sure you haven’t) I strongly encourage you to watch the video below. If it doesn’t inspire you, you may not have a pulse!
Here is the transcript of my favorite section. I’ve listen to it a dozen times and it never ceases to motivate me. I hope it does the same for you.
June 5, 2008 – By J.K. Rowling
“On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.
“What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.
“…the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.
“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
“Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.
“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.
“So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.”
Just that last paragraph sums up her vision very well. Stop worrying about building your CV and start living the type of life that makes you happy. Don’t fear the impossible, but rather, try to make it possible.
“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Thank you for reading (and watching). Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)