As John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach and philosopher of success, once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” This sentiment highlights the importance of embracing failure as a necessary step on the path to success.

Success, no matter how we define it is generally seen as the pursuit of something important to us.  As a result of our attempts to achieve that something, it is not uncommon that we fail before we succeed.  It is this underlying path to success which is the basis behind the thought that the foundation of success IS failure. Every great accomplishment requires a willingness to take risks and make mistakes. However, it is not enough to simply experience failure. To truly succeed, we must learn from our failures, draw on them for new found strength and use them as a platform for growth.

The framing of failure as a negative outcome in society has deep historical and cultural roots. While it is true that growth and learning often come from failure, several factors contribute to its negative perception:

  1. Fear of Rejection: We have an inherent fear of rejection and failure, which is rooted in our evolutionary past. Early human societies relied on cooperation and belonging to the group for survival. Failure could lead to being ostracized from the group, which was a significant threat to survival. This fear of rejection still influences our psychology and behaviors today.
  2. Cultural Norms and Expectations: Many societies place a high value on success, achievement, and perfection. As a result, failure is often seen as a sign of inadequacy or incompetence. The fear of judgment from others and societal pressure to succeed can lead to stigmatization of failure.
  3. Education System: Traditional education systems often prioritize correct answers and penalize mistakes. This approach reinforces the idea that failure is something to be avoided, rather than an opportunity for learning and growth. Students may become risk-averse and shy away from trying new things or thinking outside the box. Although this is changing, it will take time for the approach to influence cultural norms.
  4. Media and Social Media: The media, including social media platforms, often glorify success stories and achievements while overlooking the struggles and failures that might have preceded them. This portrayal can create an unrealistic expectation of constant success, adding to the stigma around failure.
  5. Economic and Professional Consequences: In many aspects of life, failure can have significant consequences, particularly in the professional and economic realms. For example, failed business ventures can result in financial loss, and professional setbacks may lead to job insecurity.

Despite these cultural and historical influences, there is a growing recognition that failure can be a valuable teacher and an essential part of the learning process. Modern approaches to education, entrepreneurship, and personal development increasingly emphasize embracing failure as a stepping stone to success.

The concept of a “growth mindset” popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck encourages individuals to view failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement. By shifting the narrative around failure and celebrating the lessons it provides, societies can create an environment that fosters innovation, resilience, and personal development. Encouraging open discussions about failure and promoting a supportive and understanding culture can help diminish the stigma associated with it and allow individuals to embrace failure as a natural part of the human experience.

Take, for example, the story of Thomas Edison. Edison’s persistence and willingness to learn from his failures ultimately led to the creation of the light bulb, a world-changing invention. Similarly, Apple’s Newton failure led to the creation of the iPhone and iPad, which revolutionized the technology industry. Michael Jordan’s high school basketball team rejection fueled his desire to improve and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

In coaching sport, we always emphasize the importance of learning from losses and using an undesirable result as motivation to improve. We encourage athletes to focus on the process rather than the outcome, and to constantly strive for improvement.

It is important to note that failure is not the only ingredient in success. Hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude are also essential components. However, the ability to embrace failure and use it as a learning opportunity is a key characteristic of successful individuals and organizations.

How does this relate to dib®

Failure is a determinant term used to describe an outcome which lacks contextual depth.  Success and failure are not as binary as they have been made out to be.
The decision to go after an important result is the start of a journey, it’s a lesson,.. in fact it’s life. Not achieving a goal, or a standard, or a metric, on your first go is not failure, it’s the start of your story.
How you choose to write that story will undoubtably involve many characters, some who will play pivotal roles along the way.

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
– William Lucas

 – William Lucas – this is dib®

The Winning Formula: Why Hard Work, Grit, and Determination are Key to Success

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