Here’s some inspirational quotes on failure I found:
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker”
What’s wrong with these quotes is how they put the focus on failure. “Only those who dare to fail greatly” makes it sound like there’s courage in failure. There isn’t. Failure is failure. It indicates a mistake, that something went wrong. It’s nothing to be proud of. It’s not a shiny badge of honor or something.
The quote continues “can ever achieve greatly.” This part is even worse. It splits people into two categories: those who can achieve greatly, and become great, and those who can’t achieve greatly, and remain mediocre “normies”. Talk like this makes failure a status symbol. It’s now no longer about success, it’s now about failure. How greatly can you fail. Because great failure starts to indicate to people great courage, great ambition, and potential for greatness. You’ve forgotten what failure is. It’s failure. Not success.
But you judge yourself for failing. You think less of yourself for failing. You also judge others and think less of others for failing. If you’re using an app or a website that crashes, you judge them for their failure to properly maintain it. Maybe you blame them or hate them for being an inconvenience for you. It’s from that moment that you end up judging yourself so harshly when you yourself fail.
You then react to this self-hatred and judgment by overreacting in the opposite direction: you run towards failure, and justify and rationalize it. And as you do so so publicly, you communicate the justification and rationalization in a manner that makes it seem so inspiring and courageous. But what is courage? I haven’t finished the book yet, but I highly recommend Courage Is Calling by Ryan Holiday. But this is not courage, it is masking a shame. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of failure. But some of you do, and then you go and hide it and mask it with this talk of courage and glorifying failure. You then double down on failure, instead of not judging yourself or something for it, meanwhile you fail to ever succeed, and you succeed at failing. Bravo!
People ironically become so afraid of failure, they can’t not fail.
What I hate about this rhetoric is how it places the focus on failure, not on success. No one wants failure. By definition, success is getting the thing you want, and failure is not getting the thing you want. If you want failure, you’re just confused. It bothers me that this talk is so widespread.
Not all talk of failure is twisted like this. In the same webpage I found the quotes above, I found these too, which I think are pretty mature and helpful:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
This one focuses on discovery and exploration. It’s not about success or failure, it’s about learning. I love it.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Chris Bradford
This one is absolutely brilliant. It completely re-frames the entire picture. Success is not the achievement of your goals, it is to never give up on moving towards what you want. It’s not even about what it is you want, it’s just about not letting failure stop you. And to be paralyzed trying to avoid failure, is failure itself.
“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneres
This one I love because it transcends failure, and re-purposes it for the aim of success. Failure becomes a tool in your arsenal towards success.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
This one again places the emphasis on the courage to not let failure stop you. Failure can be so hurtful and jarring. To keep moving forward in spite of the failure, that is what counts.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
This one is brilliant. I love this author and his book, The Alchemist. Totally recommend it. This quote feels to me to be as wise as the book. Failure doesn’t stop you. It’s the paralyzing fear of failure that stops you. It’s the threat of failure, the anticipation of it, that cripples you.
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
This one places the emphasis on the loss of enthusiasm we usually get from failure. We tend to feel that because we failed we’re not able to succeed. Which makes no sense at all. We feel that because we believe we can succeed, that that means we shouldn’t fail. We need to learn that failure is part of the process towards success at our goals, especially if our goals are big and involve people. You don’t have much control in the picture. You can only row the boat, you don’t control the waves. Your boat may be flipped over, that doesn’t mean you have to drown.
This post was inspired by a YouTube video by HealthyGamerGG (36min long, but totally worth every second). In the video he speaks the phrase “Don’t let failure stop you!” which totally inspired me to write this. I thought that’s the right attitude. I could never have said it better myself.
Don’t let failure stop you.