Does Failure Really Exist?

This picture is by Jackson Pollock and once was considered a “failure” by many experts in the art world. Now, it is proudly displayed as an example of good art.

Does failure really exists? Before I answer that question let’s consider some other questions – all related to failure. For each question, I will give an answer or response which represents the first thing that comes to my mind.

>Do I know of anyone who has failed?

Yes and no! I know people who said they failed, but I think they didn’t. I’ve known people who didn’t think they failed, but I think most people would say they did.

>What does failure mean?

Failure is having no success. I realize this is a simplistic and short answer, but I think it is the only way we can think of failure. Too often, failure is the term used when the person who “failed” had much success and still was stuck with the failure label.

Does this prove we are not failures?

>Is failure relative?

Definitely! One person’s failure is another person’s success. Consider a school room setting where one student is considered to have great potential, but doesn’t perform like s/he is expected. Now compare that to another student who is considered to have little potential, yet performs far above her/his perceived ability.

>Are we programmed to believe that failure is bad?

Yes! I think failure is considered to be a negative word. Most people, when hearing the word ‘failure,’ immediately consider it to be something that is bad.

>Are we afraid of failure?

I don’t know about you, but I have always been concerned about being labeled a failure.

>Does everyone experience failure?

This is an interesting question. I have often experienced what many people, including myself, would initially call failure, but many times, upon hindsight, turned out to be just a good learning experience. This, I think, happens to everyone.

Failure is a locked door to success!

>Is failure more of an attitude than something that really happens to a person?

Now, this is a most interesting question and it is also one that I find most difficult to answer. You see, failure does seem to be more of an attitude than something that really happens, BUT how can that be reality? :-) What I mean, is when we have failed and we feel we have failed, it seems real. On the other hand, most failures that I have experienced were not as bad upon hindsight as they seemed when they happened. In fact, always after the failure, I can see a lesson learned, different point of view, etc. that usually allows me to view the “failure” as more attitude and less real failure. Wow!

Please peruse the following quotes about failure from successful people who walked many different paths through life. For each quote, I have provided the author’s name in hypertext, giving you a direct link to a website with more information about her/him.

“We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just the other side of failure.”

Leo F. Buscaglia

“Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.”

William Saroyan

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

“Failure is success if we learn from it.”

Malcolm S. Forbes

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Henry Ford

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

Zig Ziglar

“Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.”

Robert Schuller

“I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.”

Oprah Winfrey

“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.”

Tony Robbins

The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.

“Failure is impossible.”

Susan B. Anthony

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”


“One must be a god to be able to tell successes from failures without making a mistake.”

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Ok, so it seems to me that successful people don’t necessarily think in terms of failure, but instead, they think in terms of what they can learn from the experience others are calling failure. Instead of labeling oneself a failure, consider it a learning experience AND it is what you make of it.

Almost all of what is called failing involves experience; experience is an important part of the learning process. Why is it that we admire an experienced person and disdain a failure? Perhaps, if we consider failure as nothing more than an experience that we can learn from, then fear of failing and other negative aspects of failure will lessen. Or, if we look at failure the way those successful people quoted above did, then we are much more likely to experience less of it. I fail to see how this won’t lead to success! :-)

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