I want you to remember that failure isn’t permanent!
Believe it or not, success is often the byproduct of repeated failures. The difference between long-term success and failure is our reaction to it. Do you know about spectacular failures of the following individuals?
- James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner magnate, made 5,126 prototypes of his namesake upright bag less vacuum cleaner before getting it right on the 5,127th time. Each time he erred, he reminded himself that he was learning how to make a better device.
- Fashion designer Vera Wang failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. She later became an editor at the fashion magazine, Vogue, but was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. Today she leads a fashion empire and is known for her designer wedding dresses.
- Albert Einstein had difficulty communicating and learning in a traditional manner. His communication and behavioral challenges were not suggestive of a lack of intelligence. Einstein said he wasn’t necessarily any smarter than most, but he “stayed” with problems longer. For one experiment it took him eight years before it was successful. He famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Walt Disney was fired from the newspaper, Kansas City Star, because his editor felt he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. His first business landed in bankruptcy because he was unable to manage money and wound up heavily in debt. When he formed the Walt Disney Company, all of his past failures paved the way for a very successful business.
- Steven Spielberg, award winning movie director and producer, was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times.
- Colonel Harland David Sanders was fired from dozens of jobs before founding Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
- J.K. Rowling was a single mom living off public assistance when she began writing the first Harry Potter novel. She became the first billionaire author in 2004.
- Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different authors. His books have sold over 600 million copies.
- Jay-Z couldn’t get any record label to sign him. He and his friends sold this first single out of the trunk of their car. He co-founded his own record company called Roc-a-fella Records with his two partners. According to Forbes magazine, he is worth about $550 million.
So how exactly are we supposed to rebound from failures without getting discouraged?
According to Noa Kageyama, Ph.D., in his article, "The Upside of Failure, the Downside of Success, and How to Keep Improving No Matter What":
After a failure, we should focus on the specific errors we made PLUS the specific things we did well. Focusing on both the good and bad seems to result in the most learning and performance improvement. Presumably, if we focus only on our mistakes after failures, we’ll get discouraged and spiral into that unproductive dark place.
Ryan Babineaux, Ph.D. and lecturer at Stanford offers five suggestions from his book, Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win.
(1) Identify Your Fear: Find something that you would like to try but have hesitated to do because of your fear of failure.
(2) Reverse Your Thinking: Come up with a way that you can fail at it as quickly as possible.
(3) Do It Anyway: Get out there and give it a try. Make mistakes and have fun doing it. Ask others for help and feedback.
(4) Fail Forward: Use your exploratory actions as a means to learn and discover what you need to know.
(5) Find the Next Challenge: Seek out the next opportunity to do things at the limits of your abilities.
Don’t let set-backs paralyze and demoralize you. Failures truly are “learning opportunities” to re-evaluate what you may be doing wrong but also what you did well. With each opportunity you are learning what to do and what not to do.