Failure Is Not the Opposite of Success, It’s Part of It.

by Onyeka Nchege on June 1, 2016


Businessman Falling on Wet FloorOur greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” said Thomas Edison. Just over a year ago, I wrote a post entitled,“Life Beyond an Epic Fail,” in which I talked about three leadership principles you can engage to overcome a failure, ensuring it will not be repeated. Recently, though, I learned I actually overlooked something when writing that post. Thanks to one of my daughters, I learned how important it is to celebrate our failures.

The old proverb says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but we tend to disagree. Most of us know what it’s like to fall face first into failure,and when that happens, the last thing we want to do is to get up and try again. That’s just human nature. It’s not until we assess our failures that we identify which wrongs to right in order to avoid failing down again, and more importantly, to build the confidence to “try again.” Sometimes it takes an extended period of time to build that confidence, because our fear of repeating failure overshadows our willpower to get up and give it another shot. 

But, instead of initially assessing all we did wrong, what if we focussed on what we did right? For example, if I set a goal to run five miles non-stop, but was only able to complete the first mile before stopping, it would be more productive to focus on the success of that first mile, instead of initially assessing the failures embedded within the last four. Not to mention, doing so will help me identify an achievement worth celebrating and move me one step closer to a positive place filled with the motivation and determination necessary to succeed the second time around. But what helped put this in perspective? 

Recently, my daughter tried out for her school’s cheer team. In preparation for her tryout, she spent a week learning the routines and practicing with the other girls who planned to try out. Thursday night, after the tryout, we learned she was one of three who, out of fifteen total, did not make the team. As you can imagine, she was devastated. To her, this was falling face first into failure. As most of us have before, she immediately resorted to feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy, repeatedly asking questions as to why she wasn’t “good enough” for the team.  

To get a better understanding as to why she was not selected, we set up a meeting with the coaches for the following week. On our way to the meeting, my daughter said, “my jumps were not right.” By doing so, she was communicating an understanding and acceptance of what she felt went wrong at the tryout. There is so much value in that notion, and I was so proud of her for taking the initiative to do so. I grew even prouder after the meeting, when I asked my daughter how she felt about the end result. She answered with, “You win some, you lose some.” In that moment, it was clear to me that my daughter opted to take the high road and persevere. I wish my daughter would have used such optimism initially, working to identify the details worth celebrating before resorting to feelings of sorrow. As she quickly realized, though her jumps were not right, there was still a great deal she did do correctly, according to the coaches. My hope is that she will use this experience to guide her the next time she falls face first into failure, finding the motivation and determination to succeed the second time around. 

Though his wisdom is often overlooked, I think Charles Barkley said it best: “If you are afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.” It’s that simple. You can’t possibly appreciate the power of achievement until you’ve experienced the detriment of failure. Fall down seven times, stand up eight; Try, try again. 

Take Action: Look back on a recent “failure” of yours. Can you recognize something you did right along the way? I encourage you to recognize those moments of success within your “face first” falls into failure, and use them to propel forward and persevere.  

Leadership on the Go…It’s O.N.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jabari Alexander June 18, 2016 at 7:18 am

Great practical story and great learning tool for your daughter on how to handle herself in future situations! Moments like this gives a clear perspective! Give it your all, come back and be creative, but, just don’t give up! Great inspirational story to give hope!

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avatar Onyeka Nchege June 29, 2016 at 10:28 am

Thanks sir. Totally agree with you. Absolutely clear perspective.

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