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Yes, You Can Fail Your Way to Success

A Personal Perspective: Using failure as motivation to move forward.

While social media can make some people appear to only experience success after success, the reality is that all of us fail, and the truly successful are the ones who use their failures as motivation to move forward.

There’s one factor that can predict success better than SAT scores, a college degree, or a first job: a person’s ability to bounce back from failure.

The problem is that most people don’t tend to learn from their failures—and if they do, they often learn the wrong things.

Also, some people find failure so awful that they look only for automatic success and avoid anything else.

The most unfortunate thing is that failure is an intrinsic part of success.

The Most Successful People Fail

Henry Heinz, the man behind the ketchup packets you were thrilled to have on that last road trip stop—not to mention what is today a $ 27 billion business—was no stranger to failure.

After starting his pickles and vinegar business in 1869 and employing hundreds of people, he and the company went completely bankrupt. The failure, combined with the public humiliation, left Heinz depressed and unable to get out of bed.

But he didn’t let that failure immobilize him. Instead, within a few years, he’d started a new company, which has lasted all these years. By the time he died in 1919, the company had more than 6,000 employees and 25 factories.

Henry Heinz found success not despite his failures but because of them.

Failure Frees Us

One of the entrepreneurs who best represents failures is also one of the most successful of all time: Steve Jobs.

There aren’t all that many people, after all, who have been fired by the company they founded. But that’s exactly what happened to Jobs in 1985 when the Apple board unceremoniously dumped him.

But Jobs—who believed that dropping out of Reed College was one of the greatest contributors to his success—found that getting fired transformed his life.

When he gave the commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, he said, “It turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Jobs is perhaps the best example of when we tumble, we are humble. Failure allows us to say, “Okay, I've got a fresh slate. Let's start again.” And we embrace the humility that comes with that.

We Need to Proactively Learn from Our Failures

Of course, we can’t just barrel through our failures if we want to grow. That’s why Media Maven CEO and TV personality Christina Nicholson recommends doing a post-failure analysis. “When you fail, look at why,” she said on the Fail Your Way to Success podcast. “Ask yourself: Was it me? Was it something else? If I did this again, what would I do differently? Don't just move on to the next without analyzing it, because that's where the learning comes into play.”

Examining failure helps you see that every failure leads you to your next success and also helps you avoid overconfidence. Embrace the Jobs-ness of it all and use your failures to free you.

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