The Hidden Value of Failure

Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

Nobody likes to fail. Whether it be in sport, business, or in life. But failure and success are two sides of the same coin, with failure being a critical stepping stone to success.


This week's Tri Town Times is about the hidden value of failure:


Failure is a catalyst to change: "All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation." -Max McKeown. When things are working and we are winning, there is a tendency to stop looking for opportunity. We may commit the sin of thinking we have everything figured out. This is especially likely if we win early in our careers. It's only when things are not working that we are motivated and free to look for a new way to do things.


Failure as a tool to build confidence: Seneca once wrote, "I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent- no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you." Doing hard things come with an inherit risk of failure. It's only by overcoming hurdles and challenges, and getting back up after failure that we begin to believe in ourselves and our ability to do hard things.


Embrace failure to free yourself from the shackles of perfection: Perfection can easily degrade to procrastination. Leonardo da Vinci was famously unreliable when it came to delivering on his commissions. He worked on the Mona Lisa for sixteen years, and died with the portrait sitting in his studio. When we seek perfection in our performance or work we artificially increase the cost of failure. There may be a time and place for perfection, but for all other times we should focus on embracing imperfection and taking action.


Use failure to test your mettle: Winston Churchill was no stranger to failure. He once said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." If the man who had weight of the free world on his shoulders can find a way to stay enthusiastic, so can we.


When I was younger I would often get angry when a repair in the bike shop did not go as planned. A stripped bolt or faulty part could turn a five minute job into an hour job, and I would react with a string of profanities that would ruin my mood. Now, when moments like this arise, I try to use these opportunities as a challenge to stay calm and collected, learn from my mistakes, and be a better person (not always successfully).


Fail often, and fail fast: Thomas Edison was famously productive in his career, filing over 1,000 patents in his lifetime. That's an average of over 15 inventions per year for entirety of his working life. Despite his success, he was even more successful at failing. He once stated: "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." When failure is viewed as an important step of the change/adaptation process, we embrace failure, learn the lesson, and move on. We only lose if we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.


This week will present many challenges, and failure will be part of the journey. Remember to fail quickly, grow from the experience, try again, and stay positive.


- Antonio Gonzalez

March, 2023


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