Why Failure Is the Important Ingredient for Success?

Why Failure Is the Important Ingredient for Success?


When it comes to success, its unavoidable by-product is a failure. We can learn from it, we can find our new motivation, or use it as incentive to change our direction. However, many of us often stuck in status quo, unwilling to take risks and continually to try avoiding failure. According to business experts, taking risk is an essential key to success. Without it, we hardly manage to reach our goals and make progress. Even though many successful people have experienced failure on their way to success, we still hesitate to impose our ideas on the outer world, feared the failure. Many business owners and entrepreneurs still hold onto strategy that is based on avoiding failure instead of focusing on success. In this way, they suppress their creativity and innovation. This strategy often fails to adjust itself to market fluctuation and changes in the business environment. The article “Take a Risk: The Odds Are Better than You Think” points out on common misconceptions we all are prone to when thinking about taking risks. It can help us understand why failure is the important ingredient for success.

Why Failure Is the Important Ingredient for Success?

1. We over-estimate the probability of something going wrong. As Daniel Kahneman wrote inThinking, Fast and Slow,when assessing risk, potential losses tend to loom larger than potential gains. That is, we tend to focus more on what might go wrong – what we might lose or sacrifice – than what might go right. Because what we focus on tends to magnify in our imaginations, it causes us to misjudge (and over-estimate) the likelihood of it occurring. Yet the reality is that the risk of something not working out is often not near as high as we estimate and the odds of it working out well, are often far better.

2. We exaggerate the consequences of what might happen if it does go wrong. This is what I refer to as ‘catastrophizing.’ We come up with dire and dramatic worst-case scenario images in our minds-eye. Rather than assume that we would act quickly to head off or mitigate a situation if things started going off track, we imagine everything spiralling shockingly out of control while we passively stand by, conjuring up images of ourselves destitute, shunned by our family, ostracized by our peers and forever shamed by our failure. Okay, maybe I go too far. Maybe you don’t catastrophize quite so dramatically. But the point is, we are neurologically wired to exaggerate how bad things could be if our plans didn’t work out, and we fail to appreciate our ability to intervene to ward off further impact.

3. We under estimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk. This goes hand in hand with the above, but is more focused on our capability over all. And while I hate to say it, women are the biggest culprits when it comes to underestimating their abilities and buying into self-doubt. Too often we let our misgivings about whether we have what it takes to succeed get the better of us. The result is that we often avoid taking on new challenges (or proactively pursuing new opportunities) because we don’t trust sufficiently in our ability to rise to the challenges they involve.

4. We discount or deny the cost of inaction, and sticking with the status quo. I wrote about this in a previous column titled The Parmenides Fallacy: Are You Ignoring the Cost of Inaction? We tell ourselves “It’s not so bad” and delude ourselves with the hope that our circumstances will somehow just get better over time and things will just ‘sort themselves out.’ We come up with excuses for why sticking with the status quo is a feasible option; why playing safe and not putting ourselves at risk of failing or looking foolish is ‘sensible.” In reality, things that aren’t working out well for us now only tend to get worse over time, not better, and issues remain unaddressed in our relationships and lives tend to grow larger, not smaller.

Taking risks requires accepting the possibility of failure. But, if we reflect on our experience, we will easily notice that we are not protected from failure, no matter how safe we played. There is no guarantee that we would not fail, even if we take actions so cautiously that it could bare lead us anywhere. As a quote by Anonymous from 1911 says: “The fellow who never makes any failures, never makes any successes either.” This notion is not important for business success only; it is just crucial to our lives. Without trial and error, we hardly learn or achieve anything. Until we play safely, we will be fear-ridden. And every goal achieved from fear does not last long. In order to move ourselves from a place of status quo, we need to let go of our fears. This act needs confidence and trust. Maybe we fail, or maybe not, but one thing is sure – we will get more confidence and become less fearful, which in turn will pave our way to success.

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