Failure – A Necessary Detour on the Path to Success

Successes are achieved, goals and dreams are obtained, and full potential is realized only by those who refused to become discouraged by their temporary set-backs, defeats, or failings. Unfortunately, we often fail to realize that defeats precede triumphs, losses accompany victories, discouragements foreshadow discoveries, and money lost can initiate incredible fortunes. For whatever reason though, in the moment of failure we wrongfully assume that we personally are failures – and we thus quit. Failure is not a person; it is an event that is absolutely necessary to achieve success. Our failures must be viewed as detours, not dead-end streets. And when such discouraging streets come, as they inevitably will, we should recognize that they are roadblocks that cause others to quit and us to try harder.

The word ‘failure’ by definition is associated with many negative connotations, images, and experiences. Our challenge is to reprogram our mentality by focusing on the positive ramifications that result from our failings: knowledge obtained, lessons learned, growth and experience, awareness of what not to do or what does not work, progress and advancement, discovery and change, and getting one step closer to that goal or dream.

And yet, getting up, learning from, and persisting after a temporary failure is not the real challenge; the true difficulty is consistently getting up and never quitting after each failure – regardless of how many temporary defeats or set-backs are experienced on the path to success. And the great secret of those who achieve success: they never knew if their victory was around the next corner or not, and they had no idea from the outset how many steps or attempts would be required. But, they achieved because they learned from each failing, had hope that their victory was around the next bend, and never gave up until their goal (dream) was realized.

The next time you personally experience a temporary failure, I want you to reflect upon the fact that each of us, every day, are the benefactors of the results produced by some of the greatest failures in history. The list below could include a dozen more historically significant figures; however, the impact these 4 men have had upon the entire globe is without question:

1) Thomas Edison: He created and invented the light bulb only after thousands of failed attempts. The exemplary optimist, Edison insisted that he never failed, he just knew of thousands of ways that did not work. Rather than failures, he viewed each attempt as another step forward.

2) George Washington: The Revolutionary War was won by the Americans – not because of superior warfare tactics, experienced commanders or soldiers, strategic positions or attacks, or military and financial power – it was won in part because of the belief and persistence of the general who did not give up after the many defeats in battle despite all odds being against him.

3) Wright Brothers: Orville and Wilbur Wright certainly faced death and disaster in every attempt to fly; but perhaps more discouraging were probably the voices of fear and doubt in their own minds and by the masses who did not believe that flying was even possible. These brothers took risks, and as a result they were initially unpopular and they were laughed at and doubted constantly. But, even though their attempts could (and did) eventuate in disaster and failure at times – they constantly desired, believed, acted, and persisted towards their goal. It took almost a decade, 7 different aircraft, and multiple crashes by each aircraft until finally their goal and dream was realized.

4) Abraham Lincoln: Isn’t ironic that a man who has had an incredibly significant impact upon the United States, and the world for that matter, over the course of his life he: failed in business, ran for state legislature and lost, lost his job, faced bankruptcy, had a nervous breakdown, ran for elector and was defeated, ran for congress and lost, ran for re-election in congress and lost, ran for senate and lost, and failed to become the Vice President. Each failure put him one step closer to winning the Presidency and eventually saving the Union.

Never has there been an individual who has achieved success without experiencing defeat, making mistakes, and learning from and persisting after failure was encountered. Pres. Barack Obama perhaps said it best when he penned: “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”

Your goal may not be to invent a light bulb, fly an airplane, or become the President – in fact, it may be as simple as losing weight, learning a musical instrument, or graduating college. However, regardless of what your goal or dream is in life, you must first truly desire it and believe that it is possible to achieve. You then must take action. And perhaps most importantly, you must realize at the outset that you will make mistakes, experience set-backs, and possible even fail in your attempt. Never forget that failure is an event and not a person – learn from your failures, get up immediately and try again, and persist and never quit until you accomplish your goal or dream. Failures are a necessary detour on the path that leads to success.

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