It looks bad, people laugh at you for it, and it’s not easy to face up to. Failure seems to reflect badly on our choices and abilities, and depending on how big the failure is, we may think failure bodes ill for our future as well.
BUT – accepting failure as a normal part of growth is critical for business and personal success. Why so? As Ron Friedman, in his book, “The Best Place to Work,” explains, the sheer quantity of failures lessens the significance of any given failure. The faster and more often we fail and learn from our mistakes, the more likely we are to succeed.
Friedman points out that we know about Thomas Edison’s lightbulb because that’s one invention that finally succeeded. What we don’t realize is that Edison tried to invent lots of other things that never worked out. One invention was a process for extracting iron from sand. It didn’t work! Edison didn’t know which invention would succeed, so he kept experimenting with every idea that came to mind.
Another reason to accept failure is that no growth happens when there’s no failure. Failure means we are stretching ourselves past our limits. If we’re not failing, we’ve probably hit a plateau. Constant growth means constant failure – and that’s not a bad thing. Every time we fail it stretches us a little bit more, and makes us more capable than we were before we failed.
Most importantly, a culture of perfection is a culture of stagnation. Whether in business or in our personal lives, if we don’t allow ourselves to fail, we will never win at anything. We will be too busy trying not to fail, to win! In contrast, a business culture or a personal worldview that allows failure fosters creativity. It makes people feel free to experiment and try new ways of doing things.
The Bible says that “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). We understand that God works all things together for good for those that love him (Romans 8:28). We can be sure that even though we don’t know the future, we know who holds the future. We can act confidently with the knowledge God has revealed to us, and we don’t need to live in paralysis by always being fearful of failure.
Let’s go back to our daily tasks, then, with a new mindset. Have we set the bar too low? Ask yourself, “Where did I fail today?” Let’s be men and women of action, pushing forward without fear, willing to fail – and expecting to fail – yet working toward success and acknowledging God’s hand in any success He sees fit to grant us.