The Importance of Failure

Failure and success are two interlinked concepts involved in everything we set out to do; from the minute we are born till when we die, we are in a continuous cycle involving both success and failure.
Everyone loves a good success story but there is the tendency, when appreciating success stories, to aspire to that level of success without fully understanding that behind the glamour usually lies the less fabulous stories of failure that make up a vital part of the journey to success.

Thuli Madonsela - Forbes Africa 'Person of the Year 2016'


Success is what everyone aspires to but we avoid failure at all cost, and much more, we tend to fear it intently, Why? Why is such an inevitable feat so greatly feared? Well, the reason is this: most people associate failure with complete defeat. People tend to personalise failure and see it as them being unsuccessful, rather than seeing it as them being unsuccessful at a particular THING for a particular REASON.

Societal influence plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions of failure, society tends to praise the victor and ignore/shame the victims. In Nigeria for instance, if you fail to successfully complete your undergraduate degree, there is a stigma attached to your reputation and your loved ones will likely think or outrightly ask “What will people say?”

The truth is that everyone fails at some point or the other in their life. Failure hurts and sometimes it affects our very core as people but there is most certainly light at the end of the tunnel – I can guarantee you that. There are two important lessons from failure that I want to share with you - two key reasons why failure is important:

 

(1) Knowledge of the process

When you set out to accomplish anything, you must know and follow the right process; every goal has processes that must be followed for you to successfully achieve it. As an example, if you want to successfully lose weight, you will have to go through the process of cutting down on fatty food and spending some time working out to burn calories.The more knowledgeable you are about the process involved in your goal, the higher your chances of success. One of the main reasons failure occurs is because part of the process is misunderstood, poorly executed or unknown. What you need to do at this point is find out exactly what  part of the process went wrong. The evaluation of ‘what went wrong’ is the single most important part of failing. Everyone has an evaluation process: you ask yourself a question and your brain gives you an answer. That’s how human evaluation typically works but what matters most is the kind of questions you ask yourself. The questions you ask yourself when you fail should be geared towards gaining something useful from the experience.Rather than ask yourself “Why does this always happen to me?” or “Why am I a failure”, ask “Why exactly did this happen?” or “How can I make sure this never happens again?”. Phrasing your questions the right way will shift your answers away from self-pity to productivity. The only way to get productive answers is to ask yourself the right questions.

When you get the right answers, you increase your knowledge base on the process involved. The more knowledgeable you are about the process involved in achieving your goal, the higher your chances of success. You can also increase your knowledge of process by speaking to people who have either successfully or unsuccessfully pursued a similar goal to yours. This way, you will be learning more about the process from their experiences and in doing so increasing your chances of success.

(2) Grit to follow through 

The second reason why failure is important is that it brings grit into play. Grit is passion and perseverance required for long-term goals, and it is one of the most significant predictors of success. How babies learn to walk is not only a clear example of how engrained failure is in the cycle of life but also of how big a role grit plays.
Babies fall repeatedly when they learn to walk, but with each day of walking, they take more steps, travel farther distances, fall and fail less. The lesson here is that your focus should not be on the fact that you fell but on getting back up to try again. Grit is all about getting back up to try again and again and again.  Don’t stop trying.

 

“Fail early, fail often but fail FORWARD” – John C. Maxwell

 

Talent and intelligence don’t make you gritty; there are a lot of talented people who don’t follow through on their goals. Nigerian multi-billionaire Aliko Dangote had this to say, “It took me 30 years to get to where I am today…in the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” In the journey of success, grit and tenacity are supreme. Persevering against all odds is the part where most people fall away from the road to success. Life is a perpetual wheel of reinventing yourself and failure is part of that process.

 

The road to success is not easy; it is full of challenges and inevitable setbacks, but setback only becomes defeat if you give up. To get the most out of setbacks, you need to adjust your perception of failure. You need to focus on the fact that failure is not a permanent condition and that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from it. If you have the grit to learn and stay determined in spite of failure, it is likely that your grit will get you to a point of success. 

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