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Fail Your Way To Success

Success is never nearly entirely a matter of luck.  Success requires, at the very least, a medium of competence, commitment, effort, and energy.  But, being a grinder is not enough.  Having passion is no guarantee either.  There is no formula, no algorithm for success.  Malcolm Gladwell’s mantra of repeating your efforts 10,000 times, works for some people and not for others.  The truth is – hard work, dedication and experience results in stark mediocrity for lots of people.

Mistakes happen and failures occur on a regular basis.  We need to look at mistakes and failures as a tool, not as a final outcome.  What Nietzsche famously said isn’t enough: “what does not kill us makes us stronger.”  In surviving, I don’t want to just get stronger, I want to get smarter, more talented, better networked etc. etc.

Failure is an experience that can be a managed resource.  Scientists do it all the time.  At the least, failure tells us what not to do!  As Thomas Aquinas called it the “negative judgment of separation”.  We learn from mistakes.  Warren Bennis has said that both experience and failure are necessary in life for wisdom and knowledge to occur.  We need to be challenged.  We all need a “crucible” – a severe test of our actions and beliefs.  “Crucibles”, says Bennis, “make us stronger”.  They transform us.  Pain, suffering, illness, and failure can make us better, different, stronger.

Abraham Maslow once said that wisdom and success is really about “knowledge, experience, pain, suffering, and living long enough to make sense of it.”  Success is dependent on using failure to develop an “adaptive capacity to learn from experience.”  No one can ever know enough.  But, being adaptive allows us to do well, despite life’s inevitable losses, challenges, and failures.

  • By Danielle on 3.12.2014 at 1:54 pm

    This is really good advice. I think a lot of people (including me) often look at failure as “the end,” but life goes on. At the very least, we can learn from our mistakes. Thanks for sharing!

  • By Mason D. on 3.12.2014 at 4:59 pm

    Agreeing with what Danielle said above; I’ve had my fair share of failures in my time, from not getting that internship to forgetting an assignment. But like you said, Al, they need to be viewed as something in life that happens, and to be learned from, rather than anguished about.

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