Quality Magazine

Jim's Gems: A Winning Combination

July 6, 2010

We seem to spend a lot of time thinking of failure (or the fear of failure) and success. We might even think failure and success are opposites. However, they are are not opposites. Actually failure is, or can be, an important component of success.

Suppose we set an objective, take action, and then fail to reach that objective on the first attempt. Even though we have experienced failure, we're in much better shape than we were before we began. Sound improbable? We are in a better situation because we have just learned, in a compelling and meaningful way, what would not work. With that knowledge, we are well on the way to finding what will work.

Some of life's greatest achievements were discovered after multiple failures. The greatest achievers seem to be those who are willing to experience failure on their way to the success they know will most certainly come. Consider Thomas Edison, arguably one of the world's most important inventors of the modern era, was reported to have said, while discovering the light bulb, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

No one, not even Edison, sets out with the intention of failing. Yet when failure comes, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and, certainly no reason to give up. We need to learn to see failure as just another step in the journey to success. However, when failure does happen, use the information wisely as those failures will serve to move us closer to success.

There is a simple, but appropriate, adage I've oftern used to drive this point home. "One way to ensure success is to increase your failure rate." Failure, like Edison experienced, can come in bunches but to succeed takes persistence. Success is a matter of hanging in there and keep trying.