“Success is going from failure to failure without loss in enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill.
What do you think and how do you feel when you fail?
Maybe you complete a piece of work which wasn’t up to your usual standard, or shouted at your children, or forgot an important appointment, or received another rejection letter. How do you interpret your failure?
It is easy to forget that failure is a good thing. Most of us have heard the anecdote about how the inventor of the lightbulb Thomas Edison countered a criticism of his many ‘failures’. He said: ‘I haven’t failed. I just found ten thousand ways it doesn’t work’. We also hear about how successful entrepreneurs only succeed because they pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and keep trying and failing until they get it right, implying that you only really fail when you give up. So why don’t we apply this thinking to our own lives?
We used to. When we learnt to feed ourselves as babies we missed our mouths many times. When we learnt to walk we fell over and risked serious injury all the time.
It seems that as we grow up we lose the security of our faith in ourselves and we start to worry about what other people think. We feel the need to prove we are good enough and worthy of people’s affection, love and respect. And because we don’t want others to see us fail, we become scared of taking risks and making mistakes.
Below is an exceprt from a speech at Harvard by J K Rowling in 2008. Hopefully we won’t get to rock bottom, but perhaps we should not be so scared to risk it.
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential…I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life… Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies…The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.”