The Benefits of Failure

Failure is something no one likes to go through. It is often accompanied by feelings of frustration, anger, and perhaps a sense of “what is wrong with me?” But failure is a part of life; we just can’t stop failing. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we focus and attempt to succeed in all we do, occasionally we will fail.

Because failure is normal part of life, it is important to have the right perspective. Failure can lead to very negative thoughts and feelings. Or it can be used as a catalyst of our ultimate improvement and future successes. Whichever it is depends greatly on how we perceive and respond to failure.

To that end, I share with you two positive ways to view failure that may provide greater confidence in what you do today and greater perspective when a failure ultimately happens.

Failure is an Opportunity to Learn

We wish we could learn everything from a book or from others’ experiences. But many life lessons occur due to living life, and learning from our own experiences. When we fail at something we have the opportunity to learn better ways of doing something. Thomas Edison said,

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

That is a wonderful perspective! OK, so this way didn’t work. Let me try another way. Failure is part of the pathway of success. Some of the best inventions and outcomes of today are the result of countless failures and the perseverance of the individual to not give up.

Failure Can Spur Creativity

Some people seem to be born with creative gifts. To others it is completely foreign and unnatural. But failure, when viewed as a step toward success, can inspire more creative thoughts, even if out of desperation. If X didn’t work, let me try something else. If Y doesn’t work, then I’ll ask around, get different viewpoints, and rethink what I am doing. Those actions are the foundation of creativity!

Several years ago I was asked to lead a religious congregation. I often met in council with other leaders of the congregation to discuss how we can be more effective in our roles. There was a strong preference among other leaders, it was really a default thought process, to just keep doing what has been done for ages. At one point I said to the group, “Look, I am willing to fail and will take all responsibility for failure. If we want to improve the results, we need to do things differently.” And that opened the door to new ideas. And most, if not all of the ideas, resulted in better outcomes. But we had to be open to the potential of failure to allow for our brains to think creatively.

In the financial industry creativity is needed in the way advisors see themselves, brand themselves, and market themselves. Just about every financial advisor says they want to differentiate themselves. But then they are only open to doing the same things as everyone else. They differentiate themselves by “caring more” than other advisors about their clients or by sending content from a marketing library (the same one all advisors have access to). Nope – not true! Advisors need to rebrand themselves and do things differently – but that means they may fail. Well, it’s worth it. Because failure is temporary. It is just a step on the path to greater future success. Unfortunately, only those who are open to failing will figure that out.