Donna Lin Niles received an MBA in 2009 from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland - College Park, and has worked in sales and marketing ever since. She is a freelance writer and editor covering a variety of business topics.
Why Failure is the Secret to Success
You’ve heard it a hundred times in sports and business: you have to fail in order to succeed. Sure, everyone knows someone who is very successful and has seemingly been that way their entire life. But the number of accomplished people around you are likely able to pinpoint several major disasters or disappointments in their personal and professional lives. Underneath the feel-good stories that end positively, there are several reasons why failure is really the secret to success. One, persistence is key. Two, you have to truly learn from the experience, and take those lessons to heart in the future. And three, accept that failure isn’t the end of the world; it’s the beginning of a new one.
Most individuals have experienced the disappointment of rejection. Maybe it’s romantic, professional, or personal in nature. Perhaps it’s as simple as applying for a dream college or job. There are certainly some lucky ones out there who have had every door open at their first knock, but, most people experience the sting of hearing someone say “no” at some point in their lives. The key to finding that happy, or at least happier, ending, is persistence. Having a door close or come to a dead end is never where your journey stops; it’s where you look for another path.
Naturally, persistence is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s equally important to examine your failures and identify how you can improve yourself, how you can better prepare for the next opportunity, and what you can do to make a difference in the future. There are several elements to assessing how you approach and address a situation at hand, but it’s always a good idea to begin with evaluating how you should plan for it. Many people may approach a job interview without any prior planning and preparation, which is counterintuitive, especially when you consider the fact that most people genuinely want these new roles. If you were turned down from a dream opportunity without researching the interviewer, company, or position, you may have some very simple planning opportunities to address next time around. If you take those lessons to heart, it can help you make a big impact the next time your dream job comes up.
Some successful entrepreneurs may say that the reason why they’ve been so successful is because they refuse to accept failure as an option. This approach works for some people, but of course, there’s no guarantee that you can control every element and factor leading to the final outcome. It is certainly a positive mindset to have and aligns with the key characteristic of being persistent; but what matters most is that failure is not the end of your story. It’s a key opportunity for a new chapter to be written. Rather than focussing yourself on the outcome of the situation at hand, it’s best to direct your outlook to your personal brand: you will not be a failure no matter what happens.
Whether the issue or opportunity you face is small or large, personal or professional, or even on a life-changing scale, it’s important to remember that failure does not mean you cannot ultimately come out on top. It can be as simple as refusing to accept “no” as an answer, or continually searching for your next big break. It’s essential that you continue opening doors for yourself. If you take your failures seriously and find ways to address opportunities in how you planned or behaved in each scenario, you can increase the probability that you’ll be successful the next time around. And finally, accepting that you may fail in a particular scenario, but you will not fail as an individual, can help you find new pathways to success.