5 Irrefutable Reasons Why You Should Embrace Failure


Show me a person who says he’s never failed and I’ll show you a person who’s never accomplished anything in his life. Every person on this planet has failed at some point. The difference between those who moved on to succeed and those who continued to fail came down to their perception of failure. One embraced failure while the other was consumed by it.

Growing up, we were all taught and conditioned to view failure as a negative. If we fail, we are weak. If we fail, we are unlucky. If we fail, we should just quit. But the fact of the matter is we were born to fail. We are flawed, rational yet emotional human beings. We are complex creatures; dynamic yet static, ever evolving but stagnant, influenced by factors that exist within our environment.

Every day we wake up, we are confronted by choices. And every decision we make leads to a series of outcomes; each one dependent on the other. Every decision results in consequences and we have no control whether these will be good or bad. Think about it.

You’re on your way to work. On the intersection, you see that the usual route is packed with cars. It looks busier than usual. You cannot see how traffic looks on the other side because cars going to the opposite side are obstructing visibility. But still you make the decision to turn left.

The consequence could be more traffic or less traffic. The outcome would either be you would be late or early for work. Did you have any control of the situation? No. But at least, you made the decision. Otherwise, you’d still be stuck in traffic.

And that is the point. Decisions have to be made because you an outcome has to be determined; an outcome of which you have no control. It’s either you succeed, you fail or stay stuck and unmoving. Every day failure is our traveling companion on this journey called life. But failure exists to guide not to detract us.

Here are reasons why you should embrace failure:

1. It is Not an Option

To detest the idea of failure is to deny your humanity. Failure is part of who we are; it is in our DNA. You cannot do anything about it. Even if you lock yourself in your own room you will still fail. You know why? Because you will miss opportunities.

Failure is very painful. Even the greatest athletes in the world feel pain. Search for the video of Roger Federer’s loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open. Federer is acknowledged as the greatest Tennis player of all time. He has a net worth of over US$320 Million and earns more than US$20 Million a year in prize money and endorsement deals.

Yet when he lost to Nadal, he cried unabashedly in front of millions. Not all the money in the world, the trappings of fame could hide his pain. People made memes of Roger crying and called him “soft”, “old” and proclaimed his run as greatest ever was over.

In response, Roger kept quiet and did what he always did: win. After losing the Australian Open, Roger annexed the French Open crown held by Nadal and won Wimbledon. In 2010, Roger won the Australian Open and US Open and claimed his position as the world’s best tennis player.

How would describe the feeling of failure? For me, it feels like a hard uppercut to the gut. You lose your breath and feel like you’re about to keep over. But you have to learn to deal with the pain of failure because there will be more incidents down the road. Psychologists say that when you experience failure, wallow in its pain until you grow numb. Then put it aside and focus on getting better.

2. Perfection Is Impossible

Before the end of the Cold War, businesses focused on creating the perfect strategy. The conditions for designing a perfect strategy were ideal back then because there were many barriers set up to protect vested interests.

When the Berlin Wall came down, it signified more than the end of a controlling political system. It also tore down walls in social, economic and cultural structures all over the world. It was a precursor for global transformation. Businesses set out to discover unchartered territories for new growth opportunities.

Then the Internet put transformation light years ahead. From 16 million users in 1995, the Internet had 300 million in 2000. By 2005, Internet accessibility reached half a billion people. Fast forward to the present and there are 3.3 Billion on the Internet every day!

The globalization of business and the evolution of the Internet have made conditions more volatile, unpredictable, chaotic and ambiguous or VUCA as the Army College described it. VUCA has made competition tighter and more intense. The power of digital technology has given us the ability to do more things at a faster pace. But that also increased the possibility of making mistakes.

Under a VUCA environment, perfection is impossible because the risk of failure is greater. Forget about investing in a Perfect Plan. Instead, focus your resources on flexible business systems.

Follow the 80-20 Rule: Spend only 20% on strategy design and 80% on implementation. This way you will be able to anticipate failure before it happens. And when it does, you will be ready.

3. Reality Is A Matter of Perception

Do you believe that failure is a consequence of incompetence? Many people believe that if they fail it is a sign they are incompetent, incapable or unworthy.

While there are incidents that lend some credence to this, there is another reason why people fail. And it’s not because we are flawed, rational yet emotional human beings.

It is because we are unique entities unto ourselves; each with their own perspectives and viewpoints. We have differences in opinion which mean failure is often not our choice.

Thus, even if we prepare to the best of our abilities we can still fail not because we were incompetent but simply because there was a difference in opinion.

In 2014, my company received an invitation to bid for the BPO requirements of one of the largest companies in the Philippines. It was an incredible feeling to be considered for the project because we were a small company and only a year into our history.

Over the course of the next year, we were invited to present our proposition to related departments of the organization. Eventually, we had come to a point where we were about to be accredited as a service provider. I submitted all documents one day after receiving the application form.

Then the day of the final presentation arrived. I prepared my presentation the week earlier. I consulted with my business partners from Canada who were experts in Behavioral Leadership, Resource Process Outsourcing, and business development. I exchanged many e-mails with my accountant. We were constantly reviewing our figures and costing. We wanted to make sure we were well-prepared for negotiation.

Long story short; after the final presentation, we didn’t get the contract. In the end and in the client’s eyes, the reality was we were not the right fit. And ironically, the feeling was mutual.

Without going into much detail, I did not want to compromise the company’s values just to get the account. My company’s purpose is to propagate BPO and not commoditize it.  My perception of reality was different from the client.

Did I fail? Yes, in the sense that I did not land the account. But was I incompetent? No. I did everything that was expected and more. We had covered all their questions and concerns. The client could not refute anything in our presentation. Still, our paths diverged.

It was a very painful experience for me but I walked away knowing I had done my best.

4. Failure Makes You Stronger

The school prepares us to be ready for the world outside its hallowed walls. But everything we learn in school is theoretical. The real tests lie in the real world.

When you fail in school, you can still get second chances. You can make up for lost points through group projects, assignments or extra credit. Even if you fail in the final grade, there is still summer class.

In life, often there are hardly any second chances. Some mistakes can be costly. The decisions you make can change your life for better or for worse. But while there may not be any second chances, you have the power to change things and make your own destiny.

One of the greatest innovative minds today belongs to Elon Musk. Other than Sir Richard Branson, I find great inspiration with Elon Musk because he takes risks that others never will. As an inventor and a proponent of technology, Musk used the proceeds from his sale of his business ventures to fund Space X and Tesla.

These companies were involved in the high-risk industries of space exploration and sustainable energy. Musk had come to a point that these ventures had him on the brink of bankruptcy. He had to make a choice to save one of the companies. Instead, he chose to save both.

Musk did not like the idea of his people being unemployed. In the back of his mind, these people’s livelihood depended on him. It was not just about saving his companies; it was about saving his people as well. According to Musk, he felt close to having a mental breakdown.

Finally, on 24 December 2006, Musk received a call from NASA awarding a contract for Space X to develop its Space X Falcon 9 Space Vehicle. Then another contract worth US$1.6 Billion on 23 December 2008 for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the space station. Both companies had been saved!

A person with a weaker disposition would have quit. But Musk learned from his mistakes and persevered.

Here is a quote on perseverance from Elon Musk:

“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

When you are confronted with failure, there are only three things you can do: Fight, Flight or Freeze.

If you choose to “Flight” or “Freeze”, either way, you have lost. But if you choose “Fight”, you are giving yourself a chance to succeed.

Have you seen videos of a wolverine defending its pups from a raging, 2,000-pound bear? The bear is 100 times larger but it will not deter the wolverine from protecting the lives of her young. A mother wolverine will fight to the death to ensure the safety of her pups. She knows that if she runs, the pups will be defenseless versus the bear. She may die during battle but the bear would be too weak or injured to go after her young.

The people who experience the greatest successes are those who push past the boundaries of their comfort zone. They don’t pay attention to the naysayers who tell them otherwise or the “prophets” who paint a picture of gloom and doom. They accept the risks because they are committed to succeed.

When they fail, the first thing they do is accept it then try to find out where they went wrong and other probable causes. Then they move forward taking the next step in the process.

5. Failure Makes You Appreciate Life More

After the first BPO company I co-founded shuttered, I took on the challenge of running my second BPO company, Benchmark Global Management Solutions on my own. From the start, things did not look promising.

The first two companies I signed up terminated the agreement because we could not get the CRM program running properly. It could not be accessed by browsers other than Google.

From January to October, we were not running any campaigns. My time was spent networking. Although I was successful enough to land interviews and give presentations I was getting rejected every time. There was a stretch in August 2013 that I was rejected 17 times within five days!

At the time, I was paying off debts including a housing loan. We had to cut back on our spending, sacrificed vacations and forego luxuries. We sold one of our cars, our funeral plan, gym membership and other remnants from a life that seemed so long ago.

I was only eating one meal a day. We would cook only one food item that should last five days. Our concern was to make sure our son was fed regularly and had all his school needs covered. There was a time we were scrambling to meet school tuition. While all of this was happening, credit card collection companies were calling every day.

Christmas was not a particularly fun time for me. But we did what we had to do to give our son the semblance of a wonderful Christmas.

But I kept pushing forward because my family depended on me. I felt like the mother wolverine; I had to defend my family and give them the life they deserved.

Three years into Benchmark’s history, we have signed up and managed more than 30 campaigns. Many have remained in our portfolio, happy with our services and have given us referrals. I have lost count but I must have been rejected 100 times in order to land the 30 accounts.

Today, we are in a much better place. It has taken me three years to appreciate the things I took for granted when I had them. I used to complain about the pettiest things and let inconsequential events bother me. I used to compare my life to others and be envious of what I didn’t have.

It is true what they say that when you survive a dire situation, the grass will look greener, the sun brighter and the air breathes easier. I would never have appreciated my life had I not failed all those previous times.

I know there will be greater challenges ahead because that is how life is. If you want to achieve greater success then be prepared to deal with greater challenges.

As Bruce Lee said:

“Do not prepare yourself for an easy life but pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Embrace Failure

Failure should not be feared; it should be embraced. It is a current reality for everyone. Money will not protect you from failure. Political connections will not shield you from failure.

You cannot hide from failure. It will find you. You cannot fight failure. If you do, it will beat you senseless.

Not trying is the biggest injustice and disrespect you can do to your life. It is better to try and fail than be safe and not try at all. There is no shame in failure, but for me, there is no dignity in being a coward.

Accept it. Embrace it. Love it. Failure is your friend, teacher, and guardian. And if you let it, failure will become your best friend.

Take it from someone who’s gone through failure more times than he has succeeded, you will become a better person because you failed.

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