Failure?

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Abraham Lincoln

I work with someone who always says “failure is not an option”.  I do know what he is saying although I don’t agree with stating it quite that way  – failure is inevitable – especially if you are a risk taker and willing to try new ideas – new ways of doing things.  To be fair to my colleague I believe what he is saying is that no matter what – we will succeed.  However I believe there may be many failures on the journey to success.

The definition of failure is quite simply “lack of success”.  We all fail as we attempt to succeed – in fact as much as we might not like failure – if we are persistent and don’t give up – and learn from our failures – it is really a step toward success.  Seth Godin says that successful people fail often and successful people learn from their failures.

Let me give you an example of someone who failed many times:

At 9, his mother died.
At 22, he tried to start a business but it failed.
At 23, he thought he would try politics. He ran for state legislature – lost. Then, he lost his job. He applied to law school but couldn’t get in.
At 24, he started another business but by the end of the year he was bankrupt.
At 26, he got engaged to be married but his fiancée died just before the wedding.
At 27, he had a total nervous breakdown and spent six months in bed.
At 29, he went back to politics and tried to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
At 31, he ran for public office again and was defeated.
At 34, he ran for Congress – lost.
At 37, he ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
At 39, he ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
At 40, he sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
At 45, he ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
At 47, he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – lost again.
At 49, he ran for U.S. Senate again – and he lost, again.
At 51, he had the audacity to run for president of the United States – and… he won.

This is the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.  Would you call him a failure?  I don’t think so –  but he sure failed many many times – but his successes were monumental.

The secret – don’t let failure paralyze you – keep at it – keep going – try again – and know that failure is a path to success.  Successful people fail many times – because not only are they are willing to keep trying – they are willing to take risks and try things they never imagined they could succeed at – and they are willing to try with audacity – and they are willing to learn – adapt – and pick themselves up – dust themselves off and start all over again!

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

Winston Churchill

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