Robert T. Kiyosaki, famous inspirational speaker and successful businessman once said that “failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” In today’s society where everyone wants to be a winner, the notion of failure being an essential part of success needs particular re-emphasis precisely because it sounds so counter-intuitive. Today, it seems that nobody wants to fail but everyone wants to succeed. But we have to recognize that failure is so important to success because it not only helps one to develop skills necessary for success, but also makes success more meaningful to the person who has attained it.
For a start, failure helps one to learn how to repeat mistakes and develop skills for necessary success. Getting a mathematics question wrong will allow one to see whether one has keyed in the wrong values in the calculator, or used the wrong formula. It is the rigorous process of failing, of checking where one has failed and of making the necessary corrections that will allow one to succeed in the future. For someone like Henry Ford who quipped that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”, he went bankrupt twice while trying to start his automobile business, which he did ultimately succeed in. Each time he failed, he identified the reason and made improvements. For example, in the manufacturing of Model T (the first Ford model), after repeated failed attempts, he finally managed to reduce assembly time from 14 hours to about 90 minutes, dramatically cutting costs and increasing the viability of his business. Similarly, for Michael Jordan, who was told he was not good enough for the school’s team, failure was overcome by seeing it as a potential for improvement. He trained harder, improved where his coach thought he lacked in, and became one of the world’s best basketball players, proving his coach’s initial judgement wrong. These examples are but a few of the numerous that show us how failure is often the path to future and greater success.
Ford’s example is also linked to how true success is often based on going where no one has gone before, whether it is innovating a new technology or trying out a new business model. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb is a classic example of how failure is essential for success. If one is merely repeating what others have done before then, failure can be avoided; but then true success will never be attained. Failure is thus almost to be expected. Going to the moon took several failures as well, with three astronauts dying in a fire when the rocket failed to launch in the first attempt. Each failure contributed to a change in the way the entire endeavour was designed. For example, the death of the astronauts prompted a major redesign of the capsule. Ultimately, success was attained when Neil Armstrong made a successful moon landing. His landing was not a one-off success, but rather an accumulation of experiences, trial and error, and of course, failures. It can thus be seen that anything innovative in this world must have taken several failures before they can fully materialise and be successful.
Besides, failure not only allows one to improve in terms of skills specific to one’s goals, but also develops one’s character which is crucial to success. Characteristics like grit, resilience and determination are developed through accepting and making the best out of failure. Many people fail not just for a particular moment, but for an extended period of time, which further tests their resilience. A noteworthy example would be J.K. Rowling who was living on welfare and suffered from her mother’s death, a miscarriage and an abusive marriage for seven years after leaving university before the Harry Potter series was published. However, it was also during these seven years that Rowling continuously worked on Harry Potter. Being a ‘failure’ did not stop her from trying to achieve success, which she eventually did.
Interestingly, failure is also an essential part of success even after one has succeeded. As Ellen DeGeneres puts it, “It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”. Someone who has never failed before will take success for granted, as if it is a given. These are the people who will not be able to maintain success for long, akin to wealthy heirs who never knew how difficult it is to earn money and thus squander all their inheritance away. The example of Steve Jobs can help to illustrate this. Jobs was pretty successful until he got ousted from his company by the other stakeholders, making him question if he was a good leader before that. Luckily for Jobs, this was not the end for him, and he quickly bounced back and ultimately regained control of his company again, taking it to greater heights. After this failure, Jobs would never take his success for granted again, for he knows its precarity. This understanding of its precarity also makes success taste sweeter and that much more precious, illustrating how the experience of past failures can contribute to a richer sense of success in future. This appreciation of one’s past failures also makes those who are successful more giving. Coming back to the example of J.K. Rowling, due to her own experiences being in poverty, she gave back to charity tremendously when she became the world’s first billionaire author, specifically contributing to anti-poverty and children welfare causes.
In summary, failure is indubitably an essential part of success, considering how it is not only inevitable but can be constructive for one’s success. Being afraid of, or avoiding, failure can ironically prevent one from accessing true success. It is then of no wonder that people who have failed then succeeded do not mind sharing about their past failures, because they truly believe that ultimately it is their failures which have helped them get to where they are today.