Why Failure Is a Necessity to Success

Successes get enough limelight and finally, in recent years, failure has gotten its share of the fame.  Droves of successful entrepreneurs, and brilliant minds alike have praised the importance of failing, and in business circles, failures can become mega-milestones by which companies are founded, transformed, or born.  Common sense may tell you that failing repeatedly never made anyone succeed.  Quite true, but the unspoken implication is that we learn from our failures.  Like a toddler with his finger in an electrical outlet, we grasp (hopefully) the aches, pains and heartbreaks we experience, and move on to other actions and ideally, achieve a different outcome.

We actually try to protect against failure rather than embrace it.  We play it safe, and avoid taking risks.  Companies themselves, especially publicly-traded ones, can, at times, take too little risk (obviously there are exceptions).  This trickles right down to the employees – afraid to take a risk and propose a new project lest it fail.  Failure-avoiding tendencies can be crippling.

What if, instead, when faced with failure, imagine that same person kept pushing, testing and trying different strategies.  The outcome may become quite different.  Or, worst case, you do fail, but you learn from that failure and try something different the next time.  Usually, when we evaluate what “failure” means, it’s never as bad as we think it will be.

Look back at some rough patches you’ve been through – you survived, right?  Maybe even better for it?  Still surviving, albeit struggling, should be an encouragement.  Minimizing or ignoring the opportunities that failures provide does a disservice on 3 levels, (there are so much more, but let’s start with these):

  1. It provides no opportunity for improvement – How can you do better if you’re already great at everything? This makes no sense.  By nature, missing goals (aka failure), allows us to improve.  Embracing failure, on the other side, ensures growth and personal stretch.
  2. Creates fear– This is crazy but when you ignore failure, or get beaten over the head for messing up, failure has an adverse effect – it creates fear rather than success. And fear is crippling.  Abolish fear by expecting some failures and countering them.
  3. Sets you up for total complacency – So, you made those mistakes, and have awful fear of future disappointment because of that. Enter guaranteed mediocrity, and no one likes that.  If we create a safe haven for ourselves, then there is no stretch or opportunity for development.  There is no challenge.  We need to be challenged in order to set good goals.  Without failure, this critical tweak can’t be made.

This is why we need to fail.  We need to fail so we can push on and endure.  We need to fail to get tougher.  Smarter.  More humble.  More adaptable.  It’s a healthy cycle in our own lives, and the lives of our business.  No one sets out to fail, but realizing it is going to happen will help us overcome the low moments.  It is often at that point, that we start finding the successes.