It’s an all too common experience in life—one that has a profound influence on so many aspects in which we carry ourselves. Beyond shaping our personality, it is something that inevitably directs us through life, plots out our courses of action and contributes to everything that we are.
It’s a word that has a negative connotation affixed to it, but the more that it’s understood, the more it can be regarded as something positive. Below are seven reasons why failure is a necessary element in our lives, how it benefits us and why it is especially necessary before achieving ultimate success.
1. It helps to deliver some necessary perspective.
How can you enjoy the view from the top without having crawled your way up from the bottom? Perspective is everything. It allows you to connect with those who are travelling down (or up) the same path that you’ve traveled and warrants your efforts at guidance—it illustrates your wisdom. More so, perspective from both ends will help you avoid taking future success for granted. If you’ve succeeded in everything that you’ve tried on your first attempt, would you fully appreciate your achievements? They would have no meaning and no substance.
2. The struggle justifies the victory.
The feeling you get when you achieve something that you’ve worked so hard to attain—this is what builds a full appreciation for it and what makes your success feel like an actual success. If you’ve never really failed, you’ve never really tried. Making that crucial effort allows everything to feel worthwhile at the end, and it lets you know that you’ve really earned the success that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Sometimes it may be more about the journey than the destination—the journey is what may be more influential on our lives and more memorable at the end of the day.
3. It builds a legitimate sense of entitlement—not a false one.
What do you think of people who are handed everything? Those who are born into fame, given wealth and power on a silver platter without asking for it? Do they deserve it, or have they earned it? It’s debatable, and many of these individuals do go on to prove themselves in one way or another, but it has to be acknowledged that they are given a head start. Something much more profound becomes apparent when achievement is backed by struggle, sacrifice, and success. Respect and, more crucially, genuine self-respect is attained.
4. You learn about yourself from failure.
Life is full of failures. From hearing “incorrect” when you take a chance on a question asked by a teacher to a denial for a promotion at work, we face learning the hard way in many aspects of life. Mistakes are failures; mistakes are also one of the best ways to learn. Rejections are failures; rejections are also motivators to try harder. A major part of life is learning how to respond to failure effectively. Rather than letting a rejection trap you in a downward spiral, you let it motivate you, fuel your future efforts. In a way, it’s sort of like building a tolerance—failure makes you stronger, wiser. In nature, predators have adapted themselves generation after generation to hunt quietly, fiercely, effectively—not because they simply knew how to do it but because they know what doesn’t work based on their own experience or that of their ancestors.
5. Failure makes you want it that much more.
First off, it’ll validate your endeavors. For instance, if you want to become a doctor, fail along the way and still work towards becoming a doctor, then you know for a fact that becoming a doctor is exactly what you’re meant to do—that it is your purpose. Secondly, if you fail along the way towards getting what you want, and still want it, your desire for that ambition will grow beyond measure. Failing to do something will re-animate and possibly reinvigorate your ambitions. In other words, if it’s something you really want, your thirst for it will grow.
6. Failure can be a window of opportunity.
Failure allows you to try new things. Not only to explore different avenues but it can act as an opportunity and help you discover things that you did not initially fathom. For instance, a failed relationship can help you identify what it is that you really want in a significant other. Failure in pursuing your occupational ambitions can help you redirect your focus towards a more appropriate path. It many cases, it can also help you realize that you’re not meant to exert your efforts into something and that your time and energy are better spent elsewhere.
7. It prompts re-evaluation.
Above all else, failing at something provokes a re-assessment of your circumstances. Big or small, this re-assessment helps to hone analytical ability and potentially identify any shortcomings in your day-to-day effectiveness. Why did my pitch at the latest business meeting fall flat? Why do I always say the wrong thing when confronted with a troublesome inquiry?
Take interviewing for instance. Only the luckiest of the bunch are able to nail an interview on their first attempt, but for the rest of us normies, we may have to trudge through dozens of interviews before we hammer down our answers and manage to effectively impress a potential employer on a whim. Next time, I have to be more prepared. Next time, I have to avoid saying so and so. Next time, I have to allude to something that is worth alluding to. If you find yourself looking forward to “next time,” then you’re doing everything right—trial and error is an inevitable basis of achieving a desired result.
How can you benefit from failure?
Ask yourself if you’ve approached everything the right way, if you had been prepared enough or if you could have done anything differently and what was outside and inside your sphere of control that may have contributed to any given failure. Most importantly, monitor your responses to things that don’t go the way that you want them to. Do you become too easily discouraged when faced with an undesired result? Or do you build from it, treat it as wisdom and use that experience as an advantage?
There’s a clear theme that is common to each and every point mentioned above—the idea that we have to work to get what we want, that we have to earn it. Failure is as big of a part of life as anything else and the more we embrace the failure, the brighter a light we can shine on our success. Failure gives us bragging rights and allows us to subsequently savor the success that we’ve earned, providing a legitimate sense of entitlement and self-respect, shielding us from criticism and steeping us in wisdom.
Life is a story, and what kind of story doesn’t involve some measure of conflict, of struggle and the need to persist. The old peg-legged fisherman, sitting in a dimly-lit bar on the tiresome shoreline of any cliche fishing town would not have a story to tell if he hadn’t first failed to catch the prized fish a hundred times before. In the words of Charles Bukowski, “What matters most is how well we walk through the fire.”
Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com