Why Every Successful Person Embraces Failure
“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.” Unless you’re an avid sports fan, you may not know that quote was said by Michael Jordan, basketball’s biggest star and legend, and one of the most famous athletes ever.
Look at Jordan’s career, and you may not comprehend how he understands about failure. He’s a six-time NBA champion, played on the All-NBA First Team 10 times and was a 14-time All-Star. He was named as One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and was even an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 and 1992. And yet, it’s easy to see he hasn’t forgotten those missed shots and losses. In fact, he contributes those failures as the reason he is now a success.
While you probably understand failure is a necessary part of life, you probably don’t welcome it or ask for it. And yet, it’s an essential part of success. If everyone could understand that without failure there is no success, they would be more excited when failure comes.
Everyone Experiences Failure
Failure is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it throughout their lives. The more success a person has, the more failures they have experienced.
- Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electrical lamp, was told he was too stupid to learn
- Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he had no imagination
- Vera Wang tried to make the U.S. Olympic team as a figure skater and failed. She also failed to be promoted from editor to editor-in-chief at Vogue before becoming a well-known fashion designer
- Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime
- Sir James Dyson now has the most well-known bagless vacuum brand in the US, but it was only after 5,126 prototypes failed
All of these people experienced failure, but you recognize either them or what made them successful. None of them let failure stop them, but took the opportunity to learn from it to achieve even greater results.
The difference between those who experience moderate success and those who take their success to new levels is the attitude they have about failure. While everyone knows failure happens, they often seek to move past it as quickly as possible. They hide it in a closet or under the rug and hope no one notices.
The most successful people wear failure like a medal. They take it out and look it over and aren’t afraid to show it to others. Even more, they examine it with the goal of learning whatever lessons it has to teach.
People with the right attitude towards failure seek to grow from it. They want to understand why it happened and what they could have done differently. They will learn how to avoid that same failure in the future. Of course, they will experience new failures, but they welcome those as the keys to continue growing.
People are born with the right attitude towards failure. Look at children as they attempt to learn new things. Curiosity and the desire to try to do something new is natural to babies and toddlers. Just watch a little one try to walk for the first time. They will make multiple attempts, each time resulting in a fall or failure. Finally, one day, the child gets it right and takes a first step. But wait! With just one or two steps, the little one falls again, this time much harder.
Rather than being discouraged, the child continues to get back up and work again to figure out this complicated thing called walking. That same attitude is present in every challenge they take on. It’s not until they are older, they begin to fear failure.
As adults, that fear of failure prevents many from making an attempt to do something new or different. That mentality of “what if I fail?” keeps them in their safe zone, never willing to step out into the unknown. It’s that attitude that limits the scope of their successes. Nothing risked, nothing gained is how everyone should look at failure. Instead of hiding from it, they should meet it head on, and dare it to enter their lives.
For a successful athlete, Michael Jordan had a lot to say about failure. “I’ve never been afraid to fail,” he has said. If the greatest basketball player can say that, how can everyone else have a lesser attitude? And what would Jordan think of those who are afraid of failure? “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”