Failure is not the opposite of success

I have spent a lot of time over the past few months thinking about “success” and what that looks like to me and what it might look to my clients.

What does success look like to you? Is it being fit and healthy? Is it having a happy family? Is it being able to buy that house, that car or something else? Is it being happy in your role and/or with your company? Is it finding that dream job? Is it comfort in the knowledge that you are able to cover your monthly bills? Or is it something completely different?

Success looks different to us all but I think that Maya Angelou nailed it for me “Success is liking yourself, what you do, and liking how you do it.” I love what I do and I am firm believer in the fact if you love what you do, the rest will follow.

I also believe that success is finding “your people.” Those who bring you joy and happiness, who help you to be the best version of you, who get you, support you, collaborate with, and encourage you and truly believe in you.

Many of us think that failure is the opposite of success, but I do not believe that it is.

To me, failure is life’s great teacher. Without failure we would be less capable of empathy, compassion and kindness. We would lack that incredible drive and ambition to succeed. Every time we fail, we learn important lessons including resilience, knowledge, experience, courage, perseverance, motivation, value and growth. Failure also creates opportunities and creativity.

There have been so many people who would be considered to be extremely successful today who failed in the past. These illustrious “failures” include: Sir James Dyson (who took 5,126 failures to create the world’s first bag-less vacuum cleaner), JK Rowling (whose book was rejected by all 12 major publishers), Henry Ford (who failed and was bankrupt twice before launching The Ford Motor Company), Thomas Edison (who failed over 10,000 times to invent a commercially viable electric lightbulb), Walt Disney (who was fired because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas) and Bill Gates (whose first business with Paul Allen, Traf-O-Data failed). Looking back on his first business experience, Gates went on to state, “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

This is a powerful, and refreshing, lesson – but it’s also one that many of us have a hard time digesting. The fact is there are very few overnight successes, and equally there are very few overnight failures. Understanding this is crucial to our growth and development.