The True Meaning Of Failure

What could you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail at the task at hand? This question is asked frequently in self-help and motivational workshops and seminars, and I have to wonder how many people have ever truly felt the empowerment and freedom that understanding the answer to this question creates. The reason for this, I believe, is simple. We live in a society that focuses on the negative and as a result of this, we tend to let our failures (or perceived failures) stand out stronger and taller than our successes. This is unfortunate, because it completely negates the power of averages.


Average you say!? Most people with an entrepreneurial spirit are taught early on that we should NEVER settle for average. Average is the kiss of death in a competitive market where you need to stand out and shine. In this case, I’m not talking about creating something that is “average.” I’m talking about looking at your “failures” from a different perspective. Let’s look at averages this way… If you have one or two glaring failures and ten to fifteen glowing successes, with the law of averages, how do you think you’re faring overall?

So, if you’ve been feeling a little unmotivated or if past failures of have gotten your confidence down, apply the law of average. List all the things you think you’ve failed in and then list all the things you’ve done well or succeed in. Clearly some things will have a little more weight then others, so you’ll have to use your own discretion at comparing the lists. In most cases, you’ll find that your average rate of success is pretty high.

If you find your failures are pulling more rank, look at what the cause may be. For many, the problem is that once they hit their first failure or possibly second failure, they never give themselves the chance to average out and truly succeed. Just keep in mind that you’re going to have failures. The key is recognizing that the real goal is to have your successes outweigh your failures.

And if you really need some extra motivation, consider these successful people who “failed” before they made it big.

  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • Charles Darwin was considered an average student. He gave up on a career in medicine and was going to school to become a parson before he found his true calling.
  • Dick Cheney flunked out of Yale twice.
  • Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.
  • While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over 15 years.
  • J.K. Rowling was unemployed, divorced and raising a daughter on social security while writing the first Harry Potter novel.
  • R.H. Macy, the founder of Macy’s, started seven failed business before finally hitting big with his store in New York City.
  • KFC and the “original” recipe might never have been made if Harland David Sanders had quit. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

For even more motivation, I leave you with some inspiring thoughts about the true meaning of failure.

  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” –Winston Churchill
  • “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” –Henry Ford
  • “Failure is success if we learn from it.” –Malcolm Forbes
  • “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” –Benjamin Franklin
  • “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” –John Burroughs
  • “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” –Confucius
  • “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” –Colin Powell
  • “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” –Zig Ziglar
  • “There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” –Tony Robbins
  • “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.” –Robert H. Schuller

Jennifer Good writes on many topics related to content marketing, social media, leadership & productivity for leading publications. You can also find her at

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