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How Can Failure Liberate Us?

If I’m honest with myself (and you), I’ve failed at more things in my life than I’ve succeed. Yeah sure, if I look at my life over time, nothing’s really been a failure. I’ve succeeded at number of things from sports to business, mountain climbing to blogging.

But when I look at each, individual event – each day or moment – I’ve failed far more than I’ve succeeded. I mean, just something simple like not wanting to worry – I’ve failed at that a number of times today alone.

So what is failure? In general, failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. Basically, failure means having things not turn out the way you want them too.

Is that a bad thing? I think not. As a matter of fact, I think it’s quite necessary.

John Berger once said, “At times failure is very necessary for the artist. It reminds him that failure is not the ultimate disaster. And this reminder liberates him from the mean fussing of perfectionism.”

Perfection is often what gets in the way of success. When we look only to perfection, we often lock in on a specific result being the ‘perfect’ one. Yet that means we’re not looking beyond what we already know. Hence, we can’t learn or grow, either in our business or our personal lives.

Phil Gerbyshak had a great quote on his blog yesterday, from Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” So change is the key to survival, to growth, to success. But there is no change if we don’t fail.

So let’s all fail more. Then perhaps we can find the success that Winston Churchill once described as, “…going from failure to failure without losing enthusiam.

Do you strive to much for one result? Why? Or have you been liberated by failure? How? I’d like to know so I can learn and grow.

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  1. I agree, you have to be prepared to fail, otherwise you would never try anything. I am a sucker for biographies of entrepreneurs and it is surprsing the number of them that failed before they eventually succeeded.

  2. Tara,

    Hi, and welcome.

    I hear you. It seems everything worth doing in life requires risk. And risk often leads to not always getting the outcome we want. But that’s a good thing because without ‘failing’ we can’t learn.

    What’s a couple of your favorite biographies?

  3. The Rchard Branson one is excellent. I like the Duncan Bannatye book too (though I don’t like him on the TV too much). Another excellent, though not a biography book is Rich Dad Poor Dad which twists the conventional idea of go to college, get a job, get a better job – on its head

  4. Failure? I’ve learned that experiencing ‘failure’ is a mind-set you can use for good or bad.
    Bad if failure ‘gets-you-down’, makes you give up, stops you from attempting a new trial, a next attempt.

    Good if you only see the ‘learning-process’ in a so-called failure. Embracing ‘failure’ makes you grow, grow in experiences, grow in skills.

    It’s not always easy to see the good in a failure, we’re all humans and we get disappointed – especially in ourselves for not getting it right the first time – but the ‘reward’ of getting-on, trying again, learning from the mistakes you made the first time: exhilarating!

  5. Tara,

    Richard Branson, I should have thought of him. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad. Nice book. Interesting read.

    Personally, I took the tried college – didn’t take, took a job that let me backpack, mountain climb and kayak 3 months out of the year, trained in alternative medicine and now a solopreneur web-business developer tract myself.

    Karin H.,

    Exactly. It’s all in the way we frame it. Perspective and perception make up our entire existence. From where we look is how we see.

  6. “took a job that let me backpack, mountain climb and kayak 3 months out of the year, trained in alternative medicine and now a solopreneur web-business developer tract myself.”

    Wow sounds great. I took the traditional route myself, wish I had read the Rich Dad Poor Dad book 15 years ago. Now I’m a freelance designer, but my real ambition is to take one of my ideas and make a business out of it – currently have an idea for a simple givaway promotion product I have Patent registered, a couple of ideas for online businesses – one’s nearly there, and have written and illustrated a kids book I am trying to get published. I have failed before but one day one of them will come off!

  7. Agreed, failure at least means you put yourself out there. The key I think, is to not have the consequences of failure be so expensive that you totally blow yourself ever being able to try again.

    Having a music background, I’d say every time you practice a piece in the beginning, that’s failing over and over until you get things sounding great.

  8. Tara,

    I say, follow your heart. It’s not always the easiest way to live. But it is certainly the most fulfilling.


    I’ve never thought of failure in relationship to larning music. It makes perfect sense. Thanks for bringing that into my awareness.

    I guess the same could be said for anyone learning anything new. You should have seen my first website 10 years ago…

  9. A few years back I took an English teaching course, for one month, in preparation for teaching abroad. Having taught in Spain for about two months I ended up deciding against teaching, favouring to return to the ways of graphic design.

    So you could say I failed at teaching. However, I met some wonderful people along the way and improved my confidence by teaching large classes of adults.

    With every negative there’s a positive. I’m sure of it.

  10. David,

    Maybe it was a failure. Maybe not. I think it’s all from your own personal perspective. How do you hold what it was?

    Personally, when I stay centered in myself, I like to remember that there really is not negative experience – just experience. It’s my labeling it negative or positive that creates my reality around it. Even the toughest experience could be positive if we consider it against the ‘big picture’ of our lives.

  11. This is something I have thought about recently too. Infact, very recently I came across a quote that went something like, “Success is 99% failure.”

    As I look back over my life, I could probably say in all honesty that the vast majority of my experiences have been a failure. It can be disheartening, especially if you allow yourself to think that the future will hold more of the same.

  12. Armen,

    Yeah. Failure is often our own coloring of an experience we either didn’t want or weren’t ready for. Our judgment makes it wrong. But the experience itself is just that – an experience.

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