The good, the bad and the art of failure


Failure and rejection are not bad. If no one ever failed, society would be boring with mediocre products and no sticky notes. That’s why I am glad we all, at one point in our lives, sucked. This applies to job hunting, college/university selection, entrepreneurship and life in general.

Assuming we learn from our mistakes, one more failure is one less weakness.

First, The Bad

The first time I ever failed a test I crumpled it up, threw it in the trash and cried. Seriously. I thought I was too smart and hated failure too much to accept it. Long story short, I failed at failing.

Failing is not fun because we feel really bad about ourselves afterward. Regret and remorse just eat away at us, and everything we should have done hits us like a ton of bricks. Getting stuck in this rut kills motivation and self-esteem.

When we don’t fail, our quality of work deteriorates because we do not push ourselves.

The Good

The obvious benefit of failing is that it requires us to get better. To me, failure is motivation to improve and that’s why I love feedback. Assuming we learn from our mistakes, one more failure is one less weakness, which is one more strength.

I believe failure is second only to real life experience in the list of things that help us to learn and grow. Life experience helps us learn from and therefore avoid unnecessary failure, and failure help us avoid undeserved success. That is vital because undeserved success gives us a false sense of entitlement, which is what happened to me.

The Art

The art of failure is patience. You need patience to understand that not everything comes right now or even the way you expect it to come. When you fail, you grow in patience and appreciation of learning – it makes you better.

When someone tells you your idea is no good or you’re not what they’re looking for in a job applicant, it’s a stepping-stone to something better. Pessimism does nothing but hinder progress and a lot of great people understand this.

That is why I will end this post with some great quotes about failure:

“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” —Barack Obama

“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.” —Michael Jordan

“I never failed once. Discovering how to make a light bulb just happened to be a 2000 step process.” —Thomas A. Edison

About the author

David-Paul Williams is a second-year marketing student at York University who is passionate about marketing, social media and changing the world. He believes the future of the world is a more connected and transparent one. He blogs about the future of marketing over at Inspire. Strengthen. Build.