When they talk about failure, many people treat it like tabu. Hushed voices and whispers. Dank, smokey rooms. Back alleys. Side-eye glances… It’s as if failing at something makes you less of a person, or as though failing at something should cause you shame.

The reality, though, is that no one succeeds without first failing. No one.

Think about it. Think of the one thing you’re the absolute best at in your life… piano, violin, soccer, football, sales, parenting, typing, customer service, whatever you excel at… now, think back to the first time you tried it. Likely, you failed at being impressive on that first try. A misstep. A stumble. Not exactly amazing.

Hell, Michael Jordan has been quoted saying that he has missed over 9,000 shots and lost nearly 300 games. He even suggests that nearly 30 times he has been afforded the opportunity to take a game winning shot—and missed. That’s Michael Jordan, failure.

Not a sports fan? How about Steve Jobs? That guy took over as Apple CEO in 1997 and is frequently credited with turning the company around—from nearly bankrupt to one of the largest names in tech and one of the most successful companies on the planet. Did you know that this mastermind was actually, previously, fired from Apple? He was a college dropout—after just one semester. He also accepted an annual salary of just $1 to come back. One dollar. Fail. Fail. Fail.

But we know that neither Jordan nor Jobs is considered a failure. Not at all. They were top of their respective industries & became household names. They both failed in order to succeed.

You see, failure is often a misconception—it’s not a failed endeavor if you can learn from the experience. When used as a learning opportunity, it’s growth, not failure. You’ve got to start somewhere—and when you start, you’re likely to fail before you impress.

And, truth be told, failures sometimes happen much later in your experience. It’s common for people to stumble at the start—when first trying something—then progress and eventually find success. Sometimes, however, even after you succeed, you’ll fail. Sometimes much later in your journey. That failure might even be the thing that completely ends your journey. Still, it’s an opportunity to grow, to learn, to become better.

Think of it as preparation for a greater challenge.

And when you fail—trust me, at some point you will—don’t let them count you out. Just because you’re up against the ropes, or even when you’re face-down on the mat, get up. And keep getting up. Dust yourself off and try again… maybe try something else. If failure has taught you that this thing—the thing you’ve failed at—isn’t the right thing for you, find the next thing and go for it.

Look at Nina Jacobson. Jacobson was president of Disney’s Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, and she was one of the small group of people who thought to turn Disney rides into motion pictures. Rides to movies would be a smash-hit idea. Box Office Gold. Her first attempt: she turned Country Bear Jamboree into a feature film. I’ll give you a moment to remember that classic ….. yeah, nobody remembers that failure. But she didn’t give up. She and her team tried again. Next, they attempted to turn the Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a live action motion picture—that hairbrained scheme gave us a whole string of hit films, they created an entire movie franchise.

Later, Jacobson was ousted from Disney. Fired. Failed. She rebounded & created Color Force, the production company behind The Hunger Games & Crazy, Rich Asians. Failed up, I’d say.

Nina Jacobson was recently on Gimlet’s “Without Fail” podcast. While listening, I was reminded, once again, that failure is a real key component to future success.

“The greatest heights always come after the lowest peaks. Every time.” – Nina Jacobson

The next time you’re hanging your head in failure related shame, don’t. Instead, pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Add your failure to your list of learnings & areas of growth. Add the experience to your failure resume. And get back out there to kick some ass – use your newfound knowledge to crush your next goal.


Photos by me.

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