Inspiration

Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success

failure is the new success JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Celebrating Asian American Creativity

failure is the new success JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Celebrating Asian American Creativity

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”

I’ve been thinking about failure since reading this excellent post on Embrace Failure on my favorite children’s literature blog, From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. As an entrepreneur, I embrace failure. It is the surest and quickest path to success. Why? It’s life’s best teacher. You never forget a failure. You learn from it, deeply and profoundly as in:  it keeps you up late a night, pondering, questioning, wondering. It provides options in the form of a nicely forking road. Do you get back in the saddle and try again, all the wiser? Or do you veer left, shimmy right, or duck down below? Failure makes you creative. If you are going to ram your head against the wall, the next time you will choose a nicely padded one.

“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.”

Not everyone agrees of course. Most pointedly, failure is not an option in Tiger Parenting. “The Chinese parenting approach is weakest when it comes to failure; it just doesn’t tolerate that possibility. The Chinese model turns on achieving success. That’s how the virtuous circle of confidence, hard work, and more success is generated.” Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Suffice it to say that I don’t buy the Tiger Parenting Model and I don’t buy the idea of failure not being an option. If you eliminate options that can lead to failure, you have very few options left. Worse, your few choices become the path of least resistance.

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

Don’t believe me? Look at Amy Chua’s career. “I went to law school, mainly because I didn’t want to go to medical school.” “After graduating [from law school], I went to a Wall Street law firm because it was the path of least resistance.” “…I decided to write an epic novel. Unfortunately, I had no talent for writing…What’s more, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Jung Chang all best me to it….At first, I was bitter and resentful, but then I got over it.” In fact, by (sort of) admitting her failings, her book became an international best seller. But in the form of her book, this is the most risk she’s taken in her life.

“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

I think what is daunting about failure is the publicity around it. Knowing that people will know that you’ve failed. That they’ll whisper behind your back about what an epic failure you are. Even laugh. But here’s the trick. If you own your failure, nothing anyone can say will bother you. That’s the secret. It’s simple really.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

Of course, you will own the knowledge that comes from failure. This knowledge is hard fought and very valuable. Use each failure to build, brick by brick, your success in whatever form that may be. Because success is never one big idea, or one very talented person, or someone who is “lucky, at the right time and right place.” No. Emphatically no!  It’s like most things: lots of little things added up together such that the sum is greater than the parts. Only the brave can try this. Are you that courageous?

“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”

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7 Responses to “Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success”

  1. On August 23, 2011 at 8:09 am betty ming liu responded with... #

    i totally agree! failure is totally tied in with fear for me. sometimes, it’s the fear of both failure AND success. the other day, my shrink said something so helpful. he observed that facing fear helps to reduce fear. this has become one of my new mantras!

  2. On September 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Nusrat Rabbee

    responded with... #

    Great post! Steve Jobs in his ever-famous commencement speech talked about it. “Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish”.

  3. On November 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    John Jung

    responded with... #

    Failure is any guarantee of success; it depends on how the individual reacts. Does he or she give up in despair or ‘learn’ how to overcome repeated failure?
    SImilarly, succcess does not always lead to a downfall; it also depends on how the individual reacts. Does it go to his or her head or does it instill more confidence and competence?
    How to deal with success or failure in positive ways can be “taught.”

  4. On November 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Kwan Nam

    responded with... #

    I think the most important is what you learn from failure or success. If you fail 10 times and never learn from those failures, you’ll fail 11th, 12th, and so forth. Psychological fortitude dealing with failure is important but learning lessons from failure and success is equally important. IMO, such lessons should be taught and learned early in childhood development because by the time child enters teen years it’s hard to re-shape their character. I heard few months back that a top MBA program was teaching how to fail. By that age, you can teach how to analyze failure but not so easy to change one’s character.

  5. On May 31, 2016 at 7:27 am Jane Allen responded with... #

    I agree that we should embrace failure. It’s the key to success. I used to dread failure but lately, I’ve gotten comfortable around it. But, I’m still learning. I like how you sum it all up:

    “Because success is never one big idea, or one very talented person, or someone who is “lucky, at the right time and right place.” No. Emphatically no! It’s like most things: lots of little things added up together such that the sum is greater than the parts. Only the brave can try this. Are you that courageous?”

    Thanks for sharing!

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