The Gift of Failure

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

Failure used to be a dreaded word , unheard of,despicable and avoided at all costs.  Failure, however is an undermined factor in the life of an individuals. If you watched the movie “Inside Out”, you’d see the important role sadness played in the life of the little girl Riley. When everything fell apart and she was ready to leave, sadness broke her down and made her realize the mistake she was about to make. It’s similar to the way failure works on us. Failure is too important to be overlooked.

A person who has never failed at anything does not know their strength and would never know what they’re truly capable of. when antigens enter the body and it overcomes it, the immunity increases to that antigen and in general too, such is the life of one who has failed a thousand times. He has a thousand stories told by his many scars. Failure shapes an individual, it defines all that you can be. It helps you understand others and empathize with them. It makes you speak from a real relatable point of view.

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.

 -Andy Grove

Almost everyone has experienced failure so it is not a strange phenomenon. And it is even better that it comes in different forms. To some, it is not that they failed completely but rather that they did not meet the expectations they had set for themselves. While this is good, to set expectations of yourself, it is good to sit back and realize what our failure teaches us not beat ourselves for failing.


When it comes to dealing with failure, Professor Covington (of The University of California)  groups students into one of four categories:

  • Success-oriented students love learning for the sake of learning. They see failure as a way to improve, rather than a slight on their value as a human being.
  • Over-strivers are the students Professor Covington calls “closet-achievers”. They are so afraid of failing that they avoid it at all costs, even if it means exerting themselves beyond what is reasonably expected.
  • Failure-avoiding students don’t expect to succeed – they just want to avoid failing. In order to do so, they frequently make excuses, procrastinate or simply don’t participate.
  • Failure-accepting students have given up trying to succeed altogether. Unsurprisingly, these are the most difficult students to motivate because they have internalized failure.

Seeing failure as inextricably connected to our sense of self-worth – or lack thereof – puts it in perspective, says Professor Covington. “By making our self-worth contingent on categories such as academic success, appearance or popularity, we fail to value ourselves solely for the fact that we are human beings and accept that failure is part of the human experience,” he explains.

Excerpt from The Psychology of Failure

Here’s what failure gives you:

  • It makes your goals seem more attainable – You know what the reality of your situation is and you realize how close you really are to achieving what you want.
  • It corrects the perception you have of yourself – This works two ways, it’s either you failed more than you expected and now you can work harder or you actually failed less that you expected and now you feel even more confident.
  • It teaches you exactly what NOT to do
  • You gain experience and wisdom
  • You develop stronger will, resilience and you become responsible

Of course, failure should not be on purpose, as much effort as possible should be put into every endeavor we venture into but in the event that we do not succeed, completely or by our own standards, failure should be embraced with open arms, dusted aside and then life should continue.


36 thoughts on “The Gift of Failure

  1. This was a good read. My children are all grown ups now, and I only have one more child in college. He is the one who wants to succeed so much that he is actually in competition with himself! I try to talk him into taking things slow, but no, he won’t take any of that.


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