I just read a story in this month’s Utah Valley BusinessQ entitled “When All Else Fails.” It was a great article about entrepreneurship and persistence, and it made me think a lot about the value behind failure. After mulling it over a bit, here are a few of the things that I came up with that I think make failure such a valuable experience:
- Failure is humiliating. When you crash and burn, suddenly you realize you’re not quite as smart, not quite as talented, not quite as creative as you thought you were. You don’t have all the answers. And that realization makes you a lot more likely to listen to what your experiences, your friends, and your mentors have to say by way of advice and help. There’s something to be said for not thinking you know everything, and nothing proves that you don’t know everything like a big, fat failure.
- Failure is motivating. The sting of failure and the desire to avoid it in the future can push you to examine the failure for lessons so you don’t make the same mistakes twice. After all, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And who wants to keep failing because of repeated mistakes?
- Failure is an effective teacher. Turns out, the lessons learned from failure much more likely to stick with you: “I could have read what I learned from my failures in a text book, but I wouldn’t have internalized them,” says Alan Hall, one of the entrepreneurs quoted in the article.
- Failure separates the men from the boys. While relatively few people get up the guts to try something once, even fewer get back up after a crippling failure to do so again. But consider this: every time you get up after falling down and try again, you build mental toughness and confidence to weather hard times without panicking. After all, if you’ve already hit rock bottom and survived, you know you can do it again. That coolheadedness could make all the difference whenever things get tight.
At the end of the day, the old adage applies: the greater the risk, the greater the reward. And while the timid may never fail, they’ll never achieve anything remarkable.