The fringe benefits of failure

There is no fun in failing. Failure is humiliating and defeating. Failure is something we hope our adversaries would face. To fail is taboo and is rightly shunned by any rational person.

Besides, failure is discouraging and can hamper the human spirit to succeed. Worst of all, failure is a word associated with the week and the underdogs of society. Or so, we are made to believe and the vast majority of us therefore do not try a tad bit more out of life for the fear of failure.

Yet, in reality most of the celebrated champions of the world have been those who faced repeated failures.

Noted British novelist best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, J K Rowling, had this to say about herself in her address to the Harvard graduates of 2008: “A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally shortlived marriage had imploded and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears that my parents had for me and that I had for myself had both come to pass and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

From Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey to Amitabh Bachchan, Stephen King to Shiv Khera, Bill Gates to Ratan Tata, and hundreds of others who are looked upon as highly accomplished in their field of work had the same pattern woven in their lives. Everyone of them had initially faced many distressing failures. Nonetheless, their failures taught them much about themselves and gave them the impetus to rebuild themselves.

Rowling eloquently describes how failure transformed her: “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded in anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believed I truly belonged. So rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

No man, other than Thomas Edison, comes to one’s mind in underscoring the importance of failure towards final victory. His most prolific invention of the light bulb took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked on his failed attempts en route to his invention. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded, “the light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” There are more fringe benefits in failures than we can imagine.

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