The Benefits of Failure

A wise man once advised me not to let small failures become big ones. He meant that failure is a valuable component of life and business. The characteristic of a great golfer is how he bounces back on the next hole after having a bad one. The same applies to anyone who is striving for greatness. How we survive failure is a true indicator of how we survive life.

I love and embrace the adage that if you are not making mistakes and not “failing,” you are not trying hard enough.

I should know. I was once fired from two jobs within a five-week period and, in hindsight, I was the better for it. In fact, it changed my life and was the impetus for co-founding D.B. Management Group with my friend Don Dawson almost 25 years ago.

We have all had failures, and when we are strong enough to overcome them, we only become stronger.

So, let’s visit the advantages and benefits of failure. (Yes, you read that right.) Are you skeptical? Are you not convinced that failure, like privilege, has its advantages? Here are some ways you can take advantage of your failures:

Learning and growth: Failure provides valuable lessons and insights. It forces individuals to reevaluate their approach and make necessary improvements, leading to personal and professional growth.

Resilience: Facing failure helps build resilience and mental toughness. It teaches individuals how to bounce back from setbacks and persevere in the face of adversity.

Innovation: Many groundbreaking innovations and discoveries have come because of failures. Scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs often learn from their mistakes and use that knowledge to create something new and better. Remember that great movie “Apollo 13?” Flight supervisor Gene Krantz, played by Ed Harris, exclaims, “Failure is not an option.” Remember all the innovation and creativity that went into bringing that crew back to earth safely? That was a great example of failure being beneficial. It was amazing to see all the improvements that came out of what was learned during that “failure.”

Humility: Failure can humble individuals, making them more open to seeking advice, feedback, and collaboration. It encourages a recognition of one’s limitations and the importance of teamwork.

Motivation: Failure can be a powerful motivator. It often fuels a strong desire to prove oneself, leading to increased determination and effort.

Character building: Facing failure can build character and make individuals more empathetic and understanding. It helps them relate to others who are struggling and provides an opportunity for personal development. Nothing builds character like failure.

Opportunity for change: Failure can be a catalyst for positive change. It prompts individuals and organizations to reevaluate their goals, strategies, and priorities, potentially leading to better choices and outcomes.

Adaptability: Failure teaches adaptability and the importance of being flexible in the face of changing circumstances. It encourages individuals to adjust their plans and strategies as needed.

Creativity: Sometimes, failure leads to creative problem-solving. When conventional approaches don’t work, individuals are pushed to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.

Appreciation of success: Failure can make success even sweeter. Experiencing setbacks can help individuals appreciate their achievements more and not take success for granted. Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr., “You can never appreciate the highest mountain top until you have been in the deepest valley.”

Building resilient relationships: When individuals support each other through failure, it can strengthen relationships and create a sense of camaraderie. Companies create the strongest long-term bonds with their customers by the way they handle and solve problems together.

Redirection: Failure can sometimes redirect individuals toward more suitable paths or goals. It may reveal that what was initially pursued wasn’t the right fit, leading to a more fulfilling journey.

Experience and wisdom: Failure accumulates experiences and wisdom that can be shared with others. Those who have faced failures can provide guidance and mentorship to help others navigate similar challenges.

Elimination of fear: After experiencing failure, individuals may become less fearful of it, making them more willing to take calculated risks. Once you’ve hit bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. In the words of Joe Namath, “Been down so long it looks like up to me.”

Long-term success: Many successful individuals and organizations have faced significant failures on their path to success. Failure can be a steppingstone toward achieving long-term goals.

Failure is the greatest opportunity to learn and thrive and find your way to a positive outcome.

I can’t help but end this with my favorite quote of all time:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, and sweat, and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know defeat or victory.” “Man in the Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt.

Just like Churchill said, “It’s a shame to waste a good crisis,” it’s a shame to waste a good failure.

It’s only common sense.