Success is a wonderful experience. We all want it but it does not always help us grow and develop. Sometimes success can even get in our way. In success it is easy to believe our own press and to assume we are better than we are. The truth is that we learn far more from failure than we do from success which is why the most successful have often failed more than they have succeeded. Much has been written regarding success but what does failure have to offer us?
First, failure makes us stronger. It is tough to fail, especially the first time. We can feel that life is over and that we are in some way diminished. If we push through the experience we come out the other side stronger and wiser. In fact, rather than diminished we are enriched with information and experiences we did not previously have.
Second, failure makes us more thoughtful and reflective. You can accept success without reflection but few can accept failure without reflection. Its very nature causes us to think, ponder and ask "what if?"
Third, failure tends to clarify both our strengths and weaknesses far more than success does. In failure we start to differentiate what we are good at and where we need others around us. Success simply makes us think we are good at most things which is far from the truth. We are good at a very few things and poor at most other things. Failure helps clarify.
Fourth, failure builds humility whereas success tends to build pride. I realize in failure the limits of my own capabilities and a need for others. Success on the other hand simply fuels my hubris and wisdom.
Fifth, failure fuels learning and growth if we have the curiosity to understand why we failed in the past and how we can avoid it in the future. Success can do just the opposite. Why do we need to grow if we are as good as it seems?
Most leaders attribute far more of their learnings to failure than they do to success. So powerful a drug is success that some leaders who fail for the first time in their fifties or sixties are crippled by the experience because they have no context for it. Thank God for your successes as well as for your failures. Allow your failures to help you grow.
The up side of failure
A leadership perspective of growth
When a great idea didn't work: Dealing with failure
The gift of failure and pain