Redefining the F-Word: The Importance of Failure

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Over the years we’ve all heard inspirational words from leaders, mentors, teachers and scholars on what is, and what isn’t considered failure. Many believe it’s the feeling you get when accomplishing a goal, attaining prosperity and popularity, or even being blessed with finding personal meaning.

Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Failure is a lot like icing on a cake—it gives success great substance and significance, as long as we have the moral courage to pursue such a feat with determination. One should never be afraid of making mistakes because it is from our mistakes that we learn to succeed.

Years ago, I met a magazine editor at a workshop who shared with me these words of advice: “The key to success is having dreams and making them come true.” I wondered if what she shared was accurate. We all have dreams and work hard to attain them, so what does it take to make them come true?

Through the years, I’ve learned from my experiences that between having a dream and manifesting it into reality, it will take a great deal of courage and a brave heart to overcome obstacles, because along the way you will fail. Though it’s painful, it is important to recognize that failure is a vital part of success.

Failure shouldn’t be regarded as the opposite of success, but rather an instrument to reaching your goals. In today’s world, the F-word has become a dreaded anxiety and must be prevented at all costs. Through success, you will be familiar with failure because you cannot successfully master something without failing. We are raised in a society that rarely focuses on the drive found in failure which has the ability to feed the soul.

Our successes in life are largely dependent on how we fail and view our ineffective endeavors, and how we react to them afterwards. You need to be able to constantly strive and go beyond your comfort zone if you want to be successful. There have been many cases in life where failure crushes someone so deep that they cannot continue and end up feeling dispirited towards their dreams.

I have a friend who dreamed of becoming a professional actor and moving from small town Indiana to sunny California. He did a lot of theater, received awards for his work that affirmed his skill, and found great meaning in the arts. After being cast in a TV pilot for a major network and traveling to L.A to start production, he was told the show was cancelled. It crushed him. For months he tried to find work, did some more theater, but sadly gave up. Through conversation, I often felt his efforts weakened due to personal fears of failing again. To this day, he calls his current job his number two dream.

Failure has an appalling way of feeding fears to our doubts and insecurities that it isn’t possible to succeed when you nosedive—but that isn’t true. Fear is only as deep as you allow it to be. If you understand what failure means to you, you will see how you can triumph. If you can get past the fear and accept it as a probable outcome, any impossible dream seems possible.

No one ever fails in life unless they give up entirely or stop trying—herein lies the difference between failure and success. Our successes in life are determined by the courage we have to face such failures. Disappointments will come and go, but they’re a vital part of the process to achieving your goals. Many don’t realize that success and failure go hand-in-hand—by fearing one, we deny the benefit of the other.

It’s counter-intuitive to recognize that failure is something to embrace. Without a willingness to be brave and separate it from your identity, success will come progressively slower. By personalizing failure and giving it importance, not only are you damaging your self-esteem, but you’re wreaking havoc on your confidence. It’s important to allow yourself to become introspective and equally courageous since courage is a vital component to success through failure. It tests our adversity and shows us the depth we can push in order to gain what we want.

What would life be like if we didn’t have the courage to attempt anything after failing? Man wouldn’t be able to nourish his creative mind or achieve modern day ideas. Imagine a world without light bulbs! Thomas Edison took 10,000 tries before developing a successful prototype. When asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times, Edison replied, “The light bulb was an invention with 10,000 steps.”

It’s about perception. If you believe you’re bigger than your failure and treat it as a stepping stone, you’re on the right path. If you don’t come across failure in anything you do, you’re not living life to the fullest, nor understanding the meaning behind such disappointments. Remove all feelings and look at failure analytically. It’s essential to learn from past mistakes, no matter how big or small because each of our mistakes teach us something new, and show us fresh ways of approaching a problem. In many ways, failure is our greatest teacher in life.

It might be painful to look back at your failures, but by avoiding them, you’re not fully engaging on the path to success and understanding where you need to be. With every challenge where failure is foreseeable, you will discover something new about yourself and how to get there. Failure is a constant learning opportunity, but only if we allow it to be.

Success brings power, and so does failure. Failure has the ability to encourage improvement and planning, letting you see yourself without embellishments. These failures allow you to build character and turn into the person you ideally wish to become. Successively, you will become more honest with yourself and see personal potential more clearly.

Your failures in life are not etched into who you are, but rather, ingredients to success. Leave behind any negativism found in the F-word and focus on the positivity.  Failure is the one thing we can build on top of and know we can’t go wrong. It’ll guide us through life and show us who we really are. 

Life is all about taking a risk and finding a passion. If you fail along the way, know that it was worth it to take that leap of faith because without failure, where would you be today?

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Head Shot 2014 - Tania HussainTania Hussain is a writer, entrepreneur, and life long learner. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine, The Hudsucker, and a freelance journalist with the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), an organization dedicated to strengthening the role of female journalists worldwide.

You can find her on Twitter @westlifebunnyLinkedIn, and her personal website.