This past winter snow and ice covered my neighborhood. When I took my daily walks, I inevitably ended up slipping and was a laughing matter for few onlookers. I learned from this and the next day I got an anti-slip bracelet for my boots. Now I can take longer walks and go on icier trails.
Failure is etched in our mind as a negative thing. It is like looking at the coin and only seeing one side. The truth is humanity could not have achieved progress without the benefit of failure.
From a Motor to an Empire
To understand why failure is a good thing, we must first change our attitude toward it. Putting emotion aside, failure is the opportunity to gather valuable information in order to make the next attempt successful.
An example is Japanese businessman Soichiro Honda. He was a Japanese engineer, industrialist, and the founder of Honda automobile and motorcycle industry. He famously declared:
Success represents the 1 percent of your work which results from the 99 percent that is called failure.
He started in a woodworking shop. He failed many times on his journey to develop this multinational business. His initial project was working on devising a motor for the bicycle. This motor eventually led to the creation of the Honda motor. Every failure brought him closer to his goal. His attitude toward failure can teach us success is an outcome of repeated failure.
What Nature Teaches Us
Next, how does nature teach us about failure? Lions, the king of the animal kingdom, repeatedly fail. Studies have shown that most hunting attempts of the lion end up in failure. It has been observed that when hunting as a team, only 4 out 10 hunts end in success.
To become an expert in your own field one needs to consider failure as part of education or evolution. Niels Bohr, one of world greatest physicist declared his view on failure:
An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a narrow field.
Pushing the Boundaries
In our world, we push the boundaries by building new structures, machines, reaching further into space and pushing the limits of science. There will be failures that lead to changes and improvements. In the future, super-fast computers will help us to become more efficient in learning from failures and we will bounce back faster after being knocked down.
Here are two simple steps to make your failure into success:
1. A Positive Attitude: When faced with a failure, step back and take a note of the reasons behind the failure.
2. Persistence: Find a role model and remind yourself your role model faced similar situations but kept trying. Positive thoughts are fuel for your mind.
Failure Shapes Success
So how did how failure shape (and continues to shape) our world in a positive way?
Penicillin, the wonder medicine, was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming. He was attempting to find a cure for other diseases, and through failures he discovered a fungus that was dissolving the surrounding bacteria. This fungus was the start of penicillin.
As with the discovery of penicillin, when a person fails in one area, it may lead to success in another area.
During my first year at University in Denmark, I failed to perform well in math and physics. I wondered about my next semester and the tougher challenges ahead.
Then I practiced a subconscious problem solving technique. That is to train my subconscious to do the problem solving. One can do this by going for a walk, taking a shower or watering the lawn. If one gets away from the problem, a solution can come quicker. I managed to master this technique and I scored perfect marks in many challenging subjects.
How can failure impact us? According to a study published in the Journal of Motivation and Emotion, failure can result in feelings of inferiority, fear of trying and lowering confidence. It is important to recognize these elements so they can be addressed. Failure impacts each person differently but the principle is the same.
What I do with my kids to remove fear of failure is to encourage them to try. For example, when my son fails to draw an animal on the paper, I tell him to look at the painting and see if it resembles any other animal. This helps to build his self-confidence and he is willing to try again. We managed to encourage by:
When your child fails, approach it with a constructive attitude. The Journal of Motivation and Emotion has proven that sad feelings from a difficult experience last longer than a pleasant and happy experience.
This knowledge requires parents to be mindful of support and encouragement that is needed to help their child out of the sad zone. Show your children examples in nature and emphasize the importance of persistence skills as key ingredients in going from failure to success. Examples are all around us. We need to learn how to see them.
Steps for Addressing Failure
The next time you see failure in your life or in your child’s life, consider the following steps.
1. Relax and take a deep breath.
2. Go to a quiet area and think what you can learn from this failure.
3. How can you takes lesson from this failure and apply to the next step.
4. Be a big-picture thinker and remind yourself now you are one step closer to getting things right.
Remember failure is simply part of natural human development. Every atom is from collapsed stars that failed to support their weight under immense gravitational force.
So relax and enjoy your journey toward success. ###
Mehdi Toozhy is a graduate of Oxford University and the renowned co-author of a scientific research paper published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration. He placed in the top 5 percent of students while studying at the Danish Technical University and achieved 100 percent in many of his challenging technical subjects. His proven study techniques, covered in his book, Keys to Success at School and Beyond, have helped many students worldwide to achieve success. For more information, go to www.MehdiToozhy.com.