The Value of Failure

View all blog posts under Articles

An integral part of any success story, failure helps us learn how to deal with adversity. Failing isn’t important by itself, but what’s more important is how those who experience it respond to the idea of not meeting their goals. Those individuals who can pick themselves back up after a failure are those who can learn from their mistakes and ultimately, succeed.

What, Exactly, Is Failure?

Everyone has a different definition of success and, by default, a different definition of failure as well. Failure can be defined as falling short of the goals that someone has set for himself or herself. This could be a grade-point average, a test score, a career aspiration, a sports goal, or anything in between.

The reality is that failing hurts in the short term; however, taking the long term view can help alleviate the sting. People can learn a rich array of valuable life skills from failure, and the importance of learning from those failures cannot be overstated.

The idea generation process in the workplace.

People Can Gain Valuable Experience from Their Failures

Because failing hurts, it can be difficult to derive lessons from it. However difficult it can be, it is important to stop and think about the experience and what was learned from it. By reflecting on what just happened, you can plan effectively and find a way to overcome the problem that caused the failure in the first place.

The experience of failing is important because it encourages individuals, especially those in leadership roles, to work both harder and smarter. Take, for example, Steve Jobs. Many people forget that Jobs was fired from his company, Apple Computer. It was a devastating situation, which Jobs did not take lightly. He noted that after the failure, “I thought about running away from (Silicon) Valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me. I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. And so I decided to start over.” He began work on a new company, which was later acquired by Apple and returned him to his company, triumphant. He also launched Pixar Animation Studios in the time following his “failure.” He looked back on the experience and noted:

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Steve Jobs may have experienced a difficult failure, but he overcame it, fixed the issues that led to it (not being a team player, not focusing on the right things at the right times), and came out on the other side better able to lead his company to unimaginable success.

Failing Leads to the Generation of Firsthand Knowledge

Consider how The Hershey Company was first developed. Milton Hershey spent countless hours in the kitchen trying to invent his candy. He actually tried and failed on three different attempts to create the candy before succeeding on the fourth attempt. While some might argue that their failures were useless, in many cases they can lead to your greatest discoveries.

With each failed model, Hershey learned valuable lessons regarding his candy and how to improve on the prior iterations. It was the summation of all of his failed attempts and the knowledge that he gained from these attempts that ultimately led to his success. These failures were vital to the development of the candy that everyone enjoys today.

Failure Teaches Perseverance

Without a doubt, two of the most valuable skills that anyone, especially today’s business managers, can learn from failure are persistence and resilience.

Someone who has failed before knows that hard work and change are required to succeed. The story of Ariana Huffington helps illustrate this point. Many people know about the successful news outlet today called The Huffington Post. What many do not realize is that she had a book that was rejected more than 30 times before she found success building her namesake. Now, Arianna Huffington is known as a prolific author of more than ten books.

Clearly, when an individual fails, works harder, and then succeeds, they build up a certain amount of resilience. This is important to keep in mind as you pursue a career as a leader and change agent in the workplace.

Failure Teaches Personal Growth

One of the understated values in learning from failure is the personal growth that comes as a result of this failure. Without a doubt, Bill Gates grew from his first experience with technology. He actually started a company before Microsoft that failed. Instead of wallowing in the failure, he grew from this experience and created Microsoft, a computer giant that made him the richest man in the world.

It is clear that rather than focusing on failure, it is vital that leaders think about why and how they ended up in this position, what they can learn from it, and what they can do to translate these lessons into success in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about how to develop your leadership and management skills, visit New England College online today.


The Importance of Failure: 5 Valuable Lessons from Failing