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The Importance of Failure

Updated: Jun 8


“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” — J.K. Rowling


"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour" - Truman Capote



Failure, as much as it hurts, is an important part of life. In fact, failure is necessary.

At some point in our life, we will have all failed and throughout our lifetime we will fail many times over. Failure isn't enjoyable, but failure, through its life-altering lessons, helps us to grow.


We are taught from a young age that failure is bad and something to fear but without failure, we would be less capable of compassion, empathy, kindness, and great achievement; we would be less likely to strive for success. It’s through failure that we learn about ourselves and are exposed to the greatest lessons that life can teach us.


What is failure?

When we think about failure, we envisage the pain that it causes, the emotional turmoil and upset, the guilt, regret, and remorse. Failure feels terrible. It’s demoralising, embarrassing, and can destroy your self-confidence if you let it. However, failure can be one of your most valuable teaching tools.


Those that have known true failure, and have bounced back from it, understand that failure in life is necessary for success. The most successful people in life have failed the most times. If you try to go through life without failing at anything, then you’re not really living a life at all. Taking risks and falling flat on your face is part of life; it makes us who we are.


Failure isn’t fun for anyone, but learning how to fail and, more importantly, having the courage to fail can accelerate learning and open up opportunities.


We know that when a baby is first learning to walk, she will fall many times in her quest for independence, this failure is an acceptable part of early life. However, as we get older failure becomes something undesirable, we prefer to focus on our accomplishments at the expense of the turbulent and sometimes epic journeys that lead us to that success. We place ourselves in a negative mindset about failure and learn to associate failure with defeat. But failure doesn’t mean the end, it just means you need to find a different road.


Why is it necessary to fail?

Failure is a stepping stone. When we fail we learn and thrive. We gain new perspectives on the world around us. Failure forces us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make great leaps. There are many life lessons that failure helps teach us. If you’ve recently failed at something in a major way, and you’re going through a difficult time right now, keep these important lessons in mind:


Experience

When we encounter something and can walk away with first-hand experience, it helps us to develop a deeper understanding of life. The experience of failing at something is truly invaluable. It completely alters our frame of mind through the induction of pain. It makes us reflect on the real nature of things and their importance in our lives, transforming and improving our future selves.


Knowledge

Failure brings with it important firsthand knowledge. That knowledge can be harnessed in the future to overcome that very failure that inflicted so much pain in the first place. Nothing can replace the knowledge gained from failure. When Thomas Edison famously failed nearly 10,000 times to create a commercially viable electric lightbulb, with each failure, he gained the knowledge of just one more avenue that didn’t work. It was the accumulated knowledge developed from nearly 10,000 failed attempts that ultimately led to his success.


Resilience

Exposure to failure helps us to grow a protective psychological skin that we call resilience. The more we fail, the more resilient we become. Just as a muscle, to build up, must endure some pain, our emotions must endure pain to strengthen. Without resilience, the slightest setback or obstacle would break us. Resilience helps us to reduce stress. When we are better able to accept setbacks, recover quickly from disappointments, and adapt well to change, we deal with stress better. Resilience is the key to success because it changes our attitude and the way we respond to difficulty.


Growth

When we fail, we grow and mature as human beings. Failure enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives and offers us new perspectives. When we survive failure we grow by gaining irreplaceable knowledge and perseverance born from overcoming hardship.


There’s simply no way forward in life without failure

When we’re going through failure, it’s hard to recognise its importance. On reflection, we are more likely to appreciate how our failures have helped us.


Understand that it's OK to fail. Keep failing over and over again if you have to. Keep on doing it until you succeed. Success will taste so much sweeter when you reach it. Pushing forward and not giving up is one of the best ways to recover from failure.


Use the knowledge that you gain from failure as leverage to help you recover and propel yourself forward. Failure offers us valuable insight into why we failed and what we could have done differently, use that knowledge to help you push past the stumbling blocks of life. Failure allows us to shape a bigger and brighter future.


Failure has shaped all of us. From adolescence to adulthood, failure has been an ever-present companion. Think of failure as your architect for life, learn from your failures of today and change how you approach your life in the future and remember, there is simply no way forward in life without failure.




Steve Race

Manager - Student Wellbeing Service

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