Secret recipe to success: Failure!

by Suba

One of my weaknesses is that I need constant success in anything I put my hand to and get discouraged quickly by failures. Translation: I give up easily. Recently I’ve been very frustrated because a number of things I’m dealing with are either going south or are just plodding around.

Successful people fail

Since I was feeling particularly blue this weekend, I decided to drown my sorrows in a Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino in a Barnes and Noble nearby.  While waiting for the Barista to brew my drink, I picked up a book that the previous patron had left on a table nearby. I don’t even remember the title of the book but the page I opened spoke about how Edison tried the proverbial 99 times to get the light bulb right.

We often think of successful people as someone gifted, who has never failed and is a genius in their field. But the truth is they have failed a lot too, the only difference is they didn’t quit. They learned from their mistakes. That got me thinking.  Throughout my life I have had my own share of successes and failures. When I think about all my successes, the only common denominator is not knowledge, not some special skill, it’s perseverance.
Stepping Stones

My own success and failures

In school, for example, I would never speak up even if I know the answer because I was so afraid of saying something slightly incorrect and then being ridiculed.  This fear followed me into adulthood and along the way I missed a lot of opportunities simply because I wasn’t willing to speak in public.  It’s only after I got to grad school that I started asking/answering in front of everyone. I might have asked stupid questions, but I learned a lot that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

How many of us thought we had a brilliant business idea but never bothered to develop it? Either because we thought it would fail or we are afraid of others thinking it was a dumb idea.  I know I have. Then it comes as a crushing blow when you see someone else, a short while later, come out with a very similar idea and make money off it. How many times have we really wanted to ask for a raise or a promotion but let fear overrule us?  The fear of failure keeps us from trying and seals our failure.

When I first thought of blogging, I was petrified.  What if it failed? What if someone I know found out about it and thought it was stupid?

My husband encouraged me and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome today. I am glad I listened to him.  It helps to have friends and family that can push you over the fear hurdle.  I have made a ton of mistakes and have learned things that I never would have otherwise. It is useful not only for my blog but in many other facets of my life.

How to convert failure to success

Small or big, every success I have had so far was because I was able to overcome my fear of failure, because I was able to learn from my mistakes. I have still not mastered this art, but I am improving slowly.

I hope that encourages you to spread your wings a little.  Here are 5 steps that I have found useful in learning from my mistakes and growing stronger as a result:

  • Apologize: If you have hurt someone, or caused any loss to someone else, first apologize.
  • Accept: We are not perfect and only with practice and making mistakes can we come close.
  • Don’t Justify : The more we justify our mistakes the less we learn from them. An excuse is the worst enemy to success.
  • Understand: Why did you make that mistake? How could it have been avoided?
  • Don’t repeat: What can you learn from this and how can you prevent this from happening?

We wouldn’t be walking now if we didn’t fail by falling at least a few times. Somewhere in the hurry to grow up, we have forgotten this. If we see failures as stepping stones and mistakes as learning opportunities we can be much more successful.

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Money Beagle October 19, 2011 at 6:55 am

I always sort of equated this to playing video games. Back in the day when I played a lot, you’d fail at a level 10-20 times, but once you got it you moved on to the next one, and the one that was the big obstacle is one you can breeze through more often than not.

Just like with anything, practice makes perfect or as close to it as we’re able to achieve. 🙂

Suba October 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Nice analogy with the video game, MB!

krantcents October 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

Successful people understand one thing about mistakes and failure, they keep trying and usually succeed. Unsuccessful people give up too soon.

Jackie October 19, 2011 at 8:50 am

Successful people are the ones who keep going 🙂

Suba October 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Agree Jackie & KC, more than the effort to succeed, it is the effort to keep going that defines the success.

Alex | Perfecting Dad October 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

I believe that failure IS the best teacher and character builder out there. From a parents point of view, I think that this should be applied to children. Rather than protect their fragile egos, they should be encouraged to challenge themselves and risk failure. I wrote a piece about it a while ago now, but very application here: My Five Year Old Failed In Front Of Hundreds: How Cool Is That?

Suba October 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Logically I understand this, but I think I will have more difficulty when we have kids 🙂 My husband is more of the let-them-learn-on-their own type. He says they will fail for sure, it is either they fail sooner and not hurt much or they fail later and get really hurt.

Shawanda October 19, 2011 at 9:56 am

So true. Many serial entrepreneurs don’t start up multiple businesses simply for the fun of it. Some of their ventures fail. They just keep plugging away.

Eric J. Nisall October 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

Experience, as they say, is always the best teacher. People can give guidance, reading on a topic can give you tips, and schooling can give you a base of understanding, but the only way people really learn is to go out and do. Sure mistakes will be made, but if you look at them as learning opportunities as opposed to simple failures it works to one’s advantage.

I know I failed miserably the first time I started blogging and in my first business. I took time away to reassess what it was that I did well, and what caused my problems. In the end, it just turned out to be things I needed to experience in order to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.

Suba October 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm

It is difficult to keep going (at least for me), but I know that is the only way forward.

Kate @ October 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm

How true, nice article!


[email protected] October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Yes, we need to praise our kids for not giving up even when they fail. Sports provide a good opportunity for this. School can be approached this way too. Math is hard? You just need to work at it longer.

ProfitsOn October 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm


There is an old saying: “We are not judged by the number of times we fail, but by the number of times we succeed.

Successes are in direct proportion of the number of times we fail and keep of trying.”

Squirrelers October 20, 2011 at 9:25 pm

While the end goal is of course success and not failure, we can certainly learn a lot from the latter. Often times, to reach our ultimate goal, we need to get the experience of failing in order to make it possible to succeed. We can learn a ton about ourselves, how to become persistent, creative, and resilent. It all depends on if the failure is totally devastating, or in most cases, if people actually learn from the failure and come back to try even harder the next time but doing it smarter.

First Gen American October 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

This is so true and I never realized it until I started working in sales. In sales, you only have about a 30% close rate on prospects, so in order to have any chance to hit your quota, you have to fail 3 out of every 4 times you try. After a while, you don’t fear failure anymore. It’s just the stepping stone to success.

Jason October 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Well said! You can never have a success if you never try or quit after failures. Never give up, never surrender.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper October 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi Suba,

I work as an IT Manager and i have to solve some really difficult and frustrating problems. I believe persistence is my most valuable skill. Although, sometimes I wish I had a magic wand.

Jessie C. October 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Great post. Inspiring and encouraging.

petra October 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Great advice. Life wouldn’t be interesting if everything came easy to us. Perseverance along with life’s ups and downs gives us character.

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