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More on Failure: Why Failure is the Secret to Your Success from bNet

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Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. 
Winston Churchill

I found this on bNet: Why Failure is the Secret of Your Success by Suzanne Lucas. The idea of failure as a sure path to success is not what a Tiger Mom believes in and that is precisely what I like about it. Think about the old Soviet Union. Do you remember that the old state run factories were never allowed to go into bankruptcy even when they were failing? Like a circle in hell, the factories were forced to stay open, doing the same doomed operations over and over. Contract that with Apple computer. Without the Lisa, there would never have been the Macintosh computer (or iPod or iPad). Learning from your mistakes is a sure path to success and this article addresses kids these days who are never allowed to make mistakes. And that’s the biggest mistake you can make as a parent!.

p.s. If you like this post, you might like Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success.

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. 
Bill Cosby

The full article is here.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. 
John Wooden

The key points:

  • What does it take to succeed? Apparently a whole lot of failure.
  • Dominic Randolph, who leads an expensive, top ranked private school in New York City, is concerned about students that have known nothing but success. These kids don’t know how to fail because they’ve never done it. Therefore, when things get outside their comfort zone, or they first encounter people more capable than they are, they have no skills for dealing with it. We talk a lot about hard work, but school grading generally ends up being based on how well you did on the test, not about how much effort it took to get there or how persistent someone was.
  • As Levin watched the progress of those KIPP (a network of charter schools) alumni, he noticed something curious: the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class.
  • The ability to bounce back from failure is a key point. But, what if you’ve never failed? What if your parents fix every problem you ever have? What if you never gain this valuable skills? Then you’re far less likely to have true success.  If you’ve never had to try again and again, are you going to assume that the problem is unsolvable if you fail the first time?

 Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street. 
Zig Ziglar

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
Henry Ford

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Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success

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“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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