It's Okay to Fail

September 17, 2019

I was listening to a YouTube video recently where successful people were giving their insight into how we acquire success. Spanx founder Sara Blakely spoke about a regular conversation she would have with her dad.

He would ask her weekly, if not daily, “What did you fail at today?” He was often disappointed if she didn’t have an answer. However, she eventually encountered failures each and every day. The two of them would talk about each of those daily failures and they would celebrate them with smiles and high fives. Often, they even laughed about them. Her dad knew that if his daughter wasn’t failing at something, she wasn’t putting forth enough effort, and she was taking no risks. She goes on to say that it altered her definition of failure to mean a lack of effort. What a great lesson for a child with so much promise. What a great lesson for all of us!

Unfortunately, we live in a time where failing is looked down upon. It’s a problem when we mess up. Consequently, most people are now afraid to fail, afraid to make a mistake, afraid to be vulnerable. Our society sheds more light on the wins, the victories, the successes. We give more attention to the winner, and not the person who comes up just short. We give business owners amazing praise for increasing their company’s revenue in each quarter of the year. We’re amazed with a coach’s ability to lead their team to a perfect record in an NFL season. It looks bad if my record has a blemish or two on it.

What’s wrong with failure?

First, failure hurts. It doesn’t feel good to work hard and not get the result you want. This is readily evident in the sports arena. Second place is often far more painful than third place. Secondly, we’re conditioned to believe that it is a problem when we fall short. A quote I recently posted in my social media reads, “It’s okay to fail, but giving up? That cannot be the option.” You’re going to fail at something. That’s inevitable, but you cannot quit. Failure paves the way to a better life.

I have failed

I began competing in the long jump as a junior for the Jaguars of Athens Drive High School. From that point, do you know how many years it took for me to win my first gold medal in a major international competition? Eleven. In all those years, do you think I never missed the sand pit at the end of a jump?  (That hurts just thinking about it.) Do you know how my career was faring all that time? I tried my best, trained my hardest, believed in myself with all of my heart, but I came up just short of gold time and time again. What kept me going was knowing that one day I would stand at the top of the podium. Not only did I realize that I would stand on the top step, but I knew that I would experience a lot of failure before I got to that point. It’s okay to fail.

All the most profitable and successful people in the world have failed at some point, but they learned something each time. I urge you to point out those moments when you’ve failed. Shed light on them and then figure out a way to overcome them. Right that wrong. Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel embarrassed. It is through failure that we’re able to realize our wildest dreams.