Really, think about it. Would you ask that person who seems out of your league on a date? Apply for your dream job that—right now—feels too far out of reach? Pursue the business idea you’ve been thinking about for the past few years? Run for president?
Well, go for it. The sooner you start trying, the sooner you’ll start failing. And the sooner you start failing, the sooner you’ll succeed.
That might sound strange. After all, failure is discouraging, and often costly.
But the fact is that failure is part of life, and it can be a stepping stone to success.
Success stories are often founded in failure
In 2016, the American Psychological Association published a study that examined the effects of teaching students about the failures of widely known scientists. The perception among students was often that well-known, brilliant scientists came to their world-changing scientific realizations with little-to-no effort.
It’s easy to look at successful people — businessmen, scientists, entrepreneurs, entertainers, etc. — and imagine that they achieved their success quickly and easily. You don’t hear about them until they’ve made their way to the top, and at that point, their lives are looking pretty good.
But it’s important to realize that many of the most successful people made big mistakes and experienced plenty of failure throughout their careers.
Think of Walt Disney. Steve Jobs. Milton Hershey.
These are a few men who come to mind when thinking about noteworthy success stories. All three of these men ultimately led wildly successful companies that are still thriving today. But they were not strangers to failure. In fact, they all experienced significant failure—not just bumps in the road, but failures within the very fields where they later found success.
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper when he was 22 years old. The reason? He “wasn’t creative enough.” Milton Hershey started three candy companies before creating Hershey’s chocolate factory, all of which were unsuccessful. Steve Jobs dropped out of college before founding Apple and was at one point removed from his own company by the board of directors.
So how did these men become successful despite setbacks, discouragement, and failures?
Well, these men didn’t become successful despite their failures. Rather, they became successful because of them. They didn’t quit as soon as they failed; they learned from their mistakes and kept moving forward and trying again.
3 reasons why failure is necessary for success.
1. It takes effort to fail.
Although it seems counterintuitive, it actually takes effort to fail. You can’t fail if you don’t try. To fail at something indicates that some type of effort was put into that something in the first place.
But you also can’t succeed if you don’t try.
The fear of failure is probably the thing that most often keeps people from pursuing the things that they want to have or do. It’s makes sense to fear failure, because failure is scary. Whenever you put effort into anything, there’s a risk involved: financial risk, emotional risk, a risk to your reputation, or any number of other uncertain and potentially negative outcomes.
Willingness to put in the effort, despite the possibility of failure, will determine whether you have what it takes to be successful. The fear of failure is problematic because it avoids not only the potential of failure, but also the potential for success.
And some risks are worth taking.
2. Not all failure leads to success, but failure can lead to growth.
The reality is, not all failures lead to success. You might bomb a test or a job interview or mess up a relationship, with nothing positive to show for the experience. Failures shouldn’t be romanticized, because they are often both difficult and costly.
But failures can and should be appreciated, even if it takes some time. They have the ability to grow you as an individual.
In a work context, failure might mean that you learn to think critically or problem solve in a different way. In a relationship context, failure might prompt you to reevaluate yourself and begin to recognize your weaknesses.
Or maybe, through failure, you’ll learn how to better use your strengths.
Think about it this way: it’s less about the end result, and more about the experience itself. What did you learn through the process?
3. Persistence through failure strengthens character
When it comes to creating success out of failure, there is one key characteristic that sets apart those who succeed from those who do not, and that is persistence. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, to persist means to “continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.”
Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, is often regarded as one of the biggest sources of inspiration when it comes to persevering through failure. Despite thousands of hours spent on failed experiments, Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Edison’s attitude is one that you should begin cultivating right now, whether you’re applying it to academics or an entrepreneurial endeavor or even relationships. Every chance you take provides a possibility for success. Even every wrong move you make helps to rule out an option, bringing you closer to the right move.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts, “ said Winston Churchill.
Success is not guaranteed or final. Neither is failure. Your persistence amid challenges and setbacks is what counts.
Get comfortable with failure
The idea that failure is actually necessary for success might seem illogical. But the reality is, failure is as much a part of life as breathing. It’s inevitable, and even necessary, for success.
When failure is treated as a possibility to be avoided at all costs, the possibility of great success is largely eliminated too.
Failure requires effort, leads to growth, and when you persist through failure, your character is strengthened.
So go ahead. Give it a shot. If you fail, you’re just one step closer to success.