Hurry Up and Fail if You Want to Succeed

“I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” — Bill Gates

Failure is often a difficult pill to swallow. We feel angry, humiliated and defeated when we don’t succeed, especially in a culture that seems to shove other people’s success in our face on an hourly basis.

But what we don’t consider is that failing is often a signal of great things to come. Consider this proof that failure may be the best thing that ever happened to you:

  • Walt Disney was told a giant mouse – aka Mickey Mouse – would never work because it would scare women.
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired at age 22 as a television reporter and deemed “unfit for TV.”
  • Dr. Seuss’s  first book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” was turned down by 27 publishing houses and was such a flop he thought about burning it.
  • Edgar Allen Poe was kicked out of West Point and his early poems were unsuccessful.

Many people who have experienced failure such as Bill Gates say that failure tests you. It forces you to rethink your strategies and ideas and develop resilience and persistence in the face of adversity or opposition.  It is those qualities that often help lead you to greater success, just as when Steven Spielberg didn’t give up when he was rejected twice from the University of Southern California or Jay-Z couldn’t get a record deal.

Psychologists Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz teach a popular Stanford University course called “Fail Fast, Fail Often,” and will release a book of the same name in December.

They contend that we need to fight the notion that is instilled in us as children that we need to be cautious and careful – and not fail. Their research shows that happy and successful people spend less time planning and more time trying things – and even failing. Trying new things, they argue, is what exposes you to new and unexpected opportunities.

One part of their advice is that if you’re going to fail, do it quickly. The more things you try – and fail at – the more quickly you will find the solution that works.

That means that if you’re trying to write a book, for example,  don’t agonize over every word but instead hammer out a first draft so you can begin re-working it to find a better second, third and fourth draft.

In other words, if you want to be a great at something, you’re going to have to suck at it first.












Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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