Everybody (or at least everybody with access to internet) has already learned that failures often precede success. Any well-known person has a story like that to tell. What people don’t always think about is that failure can be a sign they are already succeeding.
Sounds absurd? It isn’t. Let’s translate that into proper English.
Failure accompanies success when one is trying. But each time people fail they get one step closer to their goal. It gives them experience, a necessary push forward and persistence in doing things their way.
Furthermore, if one is moving, one will arrive someplace, even if that’s not exactly where they planned to end up. In a way, the discovery of America was a failure to find a path to India, and look how that turned out.
That doesn’t just apply to the Spanish navy. Have a look at more recent examples.
1. Henry Ford
There’s no businessman like Henry Ford, the car mogul and engineering genius. How much do you know about his business ventures, though?
Yeah, yeah, he designed a car, won the heart of a big investor William H. Murphy. And then he failed. Twice. Ford had to leave his own company with no money to start a new one.
Yet, it was a good thing. Ford failed because he never stopped improving the design, and the delays in production angered investors. By refusing to submit to their terms he was succeeding in reaching his goal – making a perfect automobile. The rest is history.
2. Milton Hershey
Around the same time Ford started to fool around with cars, Milton Hershey got into the candy-making business. He trained as a confectioner, opened his first shop in Philly, and it was a flop. So were the other two in Chicago and New Orleans. Failure after failure after failure.
Hershey was the first candy-maker in America to add milk to chocolate
In between Hershey learned and experimented. He saw his employer in Denver add fresh milk to caramel, so he did the same. This caramel happened to have a longer shelf life, so Hershey could export his candies.
Milton didn’t stop there. He tried adding milk to chocolate, the first person in America to do that. Chocolate became popular, and Hershey became the embodiment of the American dream. His failures made it possible.
3. Elon Musk
The man behind Tesla and SpaceX has had a fair share of failures over the course of his career. He didn’t get a job at Netscape, was ousted from his own company (two of them, actually, Zip2 and PayPal), couldn’t sign a rocket deal with the Russians, had a few of his own rockets explode and saw more than 100,000 Tesla cars recalled.
If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough
Each time he bounced back from failure and turned to something even greater than the previous venture. Musk seems to have an itch that prevents him from ever stopping, and that goes for failures, too. But that’s what also makes him such an amazing entrepreneur. He’s not scared to try.
As for his attitude to failure, there’s no way to put it better than he did it himself, “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
Bonus: Michael Jordan
Ask anyone who the greatest basketball player of all time is, and you’ll likely get the same answer, Michael Jordan. At least, NBA seems to think so. But his road to fame was somewhat bumpy, too.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
He didn’t make the varsity as a sophomore but became a star athlete later and was drafted by Chicago Bulls after his junior year. He was crowned NBA Rookie Of The Year, lead the team to the three-peat but retired after the death of his father.
When he did come back, he was good but far from his best. Nick Anderson from Orlando Magic who outplayed Jordan in one of his first games even commented that the player “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan.”
Maybe so, but Jordan trained more than he ever did and soon led the team to their second three-peat. Failure fueled him and gave him enormous strength. Remember what he said in the iconic Nike commercial?
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”