No Success without Failure?

“No meaningful success comes without failure.” Huh?



We love ’em — when two things that seem to contradict each other are both nonetheless true. A paradox is a delicious little morsel of brain-twisting wisdom which forces us to examine ourselves and our world through a new lens.

And here’s one of my favorites: “The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed.”

Let that settle in for a moment. More failure means better chances of success? It’s true, especially for achievements that are truly worth striving for.

The Human Experience of Failure

Think about it: if a person experiences many failures as they work toward their goal of success, what does that mean about the person? It means they have perseverance, grit, determination, resilience. It means that, time and time again, they have pulled themselves out of the quicksand of failure and once again made a step toward success. They keep going. Isn’t this what success is made of?

Consider the counterexample: A person who fails only once or twice. Either they gave up, or they succeeded in a goal which wasn’t very challenging (i.e. worthwhile) to begin with. Neither outcome spells success.

“It is he who fails the most who gains the most.”

Consider Jordan

In 1978, Michael Jordan was cut from the Varsity basketball team as a high school sophomore. His best friend made the roster. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan would explain. “That usually got me going again.” Jordan went on to win six NBA championships and became widely recognized as the best basketball player to ever grace the court. Talk about grit.

So the next time your child experiences a failure– academically, athletically, or personally– and you’re not sure what to say to console him/her, talk to them about the paradox of failure and success. Society will teach them that winning is the ultimate mark of achievement, but behind every meaningful success is a series of meaningful failures.


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