Successful Failure

What? There are successful benefits to failure?

Please tell me more. Because when I fail, I feel like anything but a success.

And don’t give me the Thomas Edison thousand tries to make a light bulb story. I know that he failed hundreds of times before he got it right and thanks to his tenacity and determination we have a great invention. But that was him and I’m not an inventor.

Self-improvement can be a real struggle for people who don’t cope well with failure.

Successful Benefits to Failure


Because even self-improvement requires us to fail forward. Improving requires learning, failing, and change. So those who are afraid of failure hunker down in a self-described safety zone and stop growing. If they stay in one place treading water, they don’t have to worry about failure right?


When someone treads in the same place too long, they sink. They get left behind by those who are moving, changing, and adapting with the flow. And sinking to the bottom is the ultimate failure.

Taking it Personally

Watching others catch lucky breaks, accomplish their dreams, and succeed is often misleading. As outsiders, even with a little inside knowledge, we usually only see the accomplishment part of the process. Often times we miss out on the dedication, hard work, and failures that contributed to the success.

The Olympics are the perfect example. We often watch the athletes compete on one of the greatest stages in the world. For the winner, their moments of glory are shared with the world.

We cheer for our favorites when they win, and feel for their sadness when they lose. The thing is, these Olympians spend more time training in four years for a single week than what some people will train in their whole lives, for anything.

But we didn’t see the tens of thousands of hours they put into practice. The wipeouts, the injuries, the crying, the coaching, the growth and hard work. We know in our minds that they practiced, but we didn’t see it. No, our view is their reigning chance at glory. We see a handful win and thousands go home holding crushed hearts and failure.

So why is it we often think our failure is so monumental. We beat ourselves up and lose faith, hope, and self-esteem.

Beating Ourselves Up

Foolish really. We rarely lose on a stage in front of tens of millions of viewers but in our heads, that’s how big we make it feel. The majority of those Olympians who walked away without a medal dust themselves off and work even harder the next four years.

Foolish really. We rarely lose on a stage in front of tens of millions of viewers but in our heads, that's how big we make it feel. Click To Tweet

Failure has some benefits.

Here are five benefits I have seen in failure and how it applies to us non-Olympians.

  1. Resilience. How would one ever know how strong and capable they are if they are never tested. Those who sail through life with little adversity or failure usually take certain things for granted. And when they do face a failure, they fall apart. Take people who lived through the great depression. On the heels of an amazing financial boom, these people suddenly found themselves out of work and desperate to put food on their tables. The older men who had known one steady manufacturing job for decades were freaking out. Some of them had no other skills to fall back on. The younger men who were already changing jobs frequently and searching for work on a regular basis knew they’d be able to make ends meet one way or another. Because frequent change and adversity were already part of their routine lives.
  2. Opportunities. How many times have you read a success story about someone who was fired from a job and went on the create a successful business? Or the person who was down and out but bumped into the right person at the right time and got their foot in a door. Being fired forces one to change their circumstances. Depending on the character of the person, this can prompt some ingenuity to not rely on an employer again. A young band once took their demo tape to RSO for a listen. The label promptly turned them down and said, “Good luck with everything.” That band went on to sell 200 million records. I’m guessing U2 got over that initial failure.

    Even More Benefits to Failure

  3. Adaptation. People who fail with a decent attitude often adapt. They learn to make the best of their difficulties. This means that the adversity will not be as painful or last as long. Take a soldier who lost a leg in the war. He came home and started physical therapy. Was he disappointed and hurt? Yes. But he used that opportunity to work with amputee children. See he was a pretty good basketball star before he left and was learning how to play with his prosthetic quite well. While in physical therapy he met a nurse who worked a second job in a children’s wing of another hospital. She introduced him to some of the kids and the hoops for hope began.
  4. Innovation. Some of the greatest inventions were mistakes. Penicillin, Potato Chips, Post-its, Microwaves, and X-rays. Stainless steel was pulled from a huge pile of discarded mistakes and the idea for cutlery emerged. Velcro and matches were also mistakes that turned into huge profits. My favorite mistake, Coca-Cola which was supposed to be medicine and turned into a great bubbly soda.
  5. Maturity. Failing at something in life can force you to grow and change. To become wiser. Learn more about who you are and what you value. This becomes especially true when applied to human interaction. Nearly everyone I know has experienced the pain of a lost friendship or relationship. These failures hurt deeply. But these things are always the result of two parties. So the opportunity for self-learning and growth is there if you seize it. Did you settle for less than you wanted, compromise when you shouldn’t have or perhaps not compromise when you should have? Were you selfish, or so generous you allowed yourself to be taken advantage of?
Live, Learn, and Love Thyself Click To Tweet

If You Have to Experience Pain, Use it To Your Benefit

Some of the most painful experiences are the best of teachers. I am not going to say that you will look back on every failure with gratitude because you likely won’t.

Even some of the lessons I have needed to learn, I was saddened by the way I was forced to learn them.

But regardless, mistakes have benefits. Even the painful ones. We don’t have to slap a pretend smile on and be thankful for every misfortune or failure in our lives. But the benefits of failure can help you if you let them.

I just encourage you to use those moments of setback or sadness to create one of the benefits above.


If you feel like failure has overtaken parts of your life and you aren’t sure how to get back on track, please hop over and take my free email challenge. The Negative Nix/Positive Pump will inspire you to believe in yourself all over again!

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