What is failure?
Is all failure bad?
I don’t know. I have never failed at something. Only kidding – I have failed so many times, it’s hard to remember.
I was reading a John Grisham novel over the weekend (I enjoy an author who writes so well it is easy to read a 300 page novel in two days). In the back was a short interview between John’s editor and Grisham (the same man since 1990).
John mentioned he recommends aspiring writers start writing as a hobby then move to a full time writing career once they have had some success. He didn’t elaborate too much more, except to say that the start of a writer’s career is usually filled with failures – poor story and character development, lack of a story, rejection from publishers, etc.
When he spoke about his first novel, A Time to Kill, receiving many rejections from publishers, it made me think. Having read the biographies or stories of many successful individuals (e.g., Presidents, CEOs, human rights activists, Terry Fox, Mandela, etc), many speak about how their failures propelled them to success. Why do many fail before succeeding?
I don’t have the answer to my own question above, but have a few ideas.
Humans need failure. It helps re-motivate ourselves to try something different or harder. A fail can point out what needs to be changed.
I always use the example of my first ever university English paper. On this paper I received an F- (didn’t know this existed). We were suppose to read an article for our next lecture and I forget. We had an in class essay. When I didn’t even know the article’s name, it is difficult to try and write something in a 10 minute span. This was a lesson to change my organisation skills and process o ensure I could keep up with the demands of each of my courses. If I had received a C, maybe I would have continued to sail through many more courses (luckily this assignment was worth nothing and was only practice).
In today’s world, many people receive the message that unless you’re smiling, you must be sad or depressed. Some understand that humans are all different (different as in different, not different as in weird). Many think, however, that the lack of a bubbly personality is negative. This is far from true.
Just like with success and failure, there are days where someone may be bubbly and others where the individual is not so bubbly. This isn’t bad or good. It’s the balance of being a human. We need success to have the failure; the yang to the ying.
I think failure brings many back to earth to remember the importance of balance. If you’re always successful, then what happens when you fail for the first time when you’re 21. University employees see this all the time with students who graduate high school with a 99% average then get a C in a college course and have a meltdown as they lack the coping skills.
Learning how to cope with failure helps see the lessons and learning opportunities in order to use these to help succeed next time.
Those who read my blog on a regular basis know the importance I put on always learning.
Failure helps you learn. Learn about yourself. About how to work with others. And just as importantly, it helps you learn that you can never been done learning.
Getting back to the many books, videos, lectures, interviews, courses, conferences, I have attended/read/watched, many of your fellow members of the human race who have been successful at something have said they first needed to fail or not be so successful. This failure actually led to their success.
Next time you fail, get out the coping skills, learn from the failure then forget about it, and look around the corner. May just be a pot of success stewin’.
I welcome and strive to get your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with me via social media.
Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom. His parents currently work in Cairo, Egypt. He has siblings and distant family in Canada. Follow his year+ overseas on Twitter (@adam13goodwin)!