Let’s play a trivia game! Can you name the author whose first children’s book was rejected by 23 different publishers? What about a famous athlete who was cut from the varsity basketball team his sophomore year in high school? Who is a famous author who lived on welfare for years in an apartment infested with mice? Drum roll…The answers are Dr. Seuss, Michael Jordan, and J.K. Rowling. Can you tell what these famous people have in common? Their stories remind us that path to success is not linear. Despite having ups and downs or fallbacks, success is attainable.
I am always drawn to autobiographies because true stories can install the highest form of hope, inspiration and motivation. While these famous people are widely celebrated it seems as though our culture is still prone to only celebrate victories while hiding away the failures. If we were to take a poll, I believe people would say that failures and past mistakes most often trigger feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, guilt and shame. Partly due to these feelings, it becomes a big challenge to learn to accept failures. Past failures may also be hard to accept because they remind us of our imperfections and shortcomings. We often view them as sign of weakness and I think that’s where growth is blocked. I believe the key to accepting our failures is recognizing that many good come out of failures! Let’s revisit the stories of Dr. Seuss, Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling. Michael Jordan is quoted as saying; “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed, I have failed over and over and over again my life, and that is why I succeed” (Greatist.com). Can the tips and tools to success be lie in our failures? What is that we can learn from failures? Once we can see that growth happens while having failures not in the absence of them, we then can explore ways we can learn from our past failures and mistakes.
I like to share with you few benefits of failure I have come to learn. Most often we find out what we like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work, what we want and don’t want through things not working out the way we planned. It has been quoted that it has taken Thomas Edison 10,000 tries before he got the filament right for the light bulb. Edison was quoted as saying: “I have not failed 10,00 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work. When I eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work” (Forbes.com). When things don’t go as we planned, our problem-solving skills as well as ability to tolerate the discomfort and distress improve. In addition, our ability to stay on task and remain accountable is well tested through times of failure. Many of our strong traits such as determination and ambition can be born out of past failures. Failures not only build our character but can also improve our relationship with others. Most often we learn to be more empathetic and non judgmental towards others due to our own past history of failures. After all if we have been there and done that, we are more likely to show understanding, patience and support to those struggling with the same challenge. I believe that there is a strong correlation between number of past failure and capacity for empathy. Being able to shift our perspective on past failures can provide us with all these benefits as well as arriving at a place of acceptance and peace. If you have some past failures that are unresolved, then therapy can be the right place for you!