What does it actually mean to be a failure?

Does it imply that a person is a complete waste or is it just a statement that describes a thing without value?

To answer these questions, let us take a look at some famous case studies of people who were labeled as failures:

  1. Thomas Edison; the famous inventor of the light bulb and so many other inventions.

As a child, Mr. Edison was expelled from school with a note to his mother that read “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” The school system castegated him and labelled him a “failure”. But today, he is regarded as one of the most successful inventors that ever lived with so many patents to his name. It is reported that Edison while trying to invent the light bulb failed more than 10000 times. When he was pressed for an answer, he simply replied that he hasn’t failed at all, that he only discovered 10000 ways his project won’t work.

  • As a teenager, Sir Richard Branson had difficulty in school, he couldn’t read like the “normal” kids in school. He was labeled as dumb by the school system and was told by his headmaster that he might end up in jail. But today, he is celebrated as a prolific businessman and philanthropist.
  • J.K Rowling the writer of Harry Porter and now a multi-millionaire was once broke, and also depressed. She was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter. So many publishing houses rejected the script because it didn’t meet their style or criteria.

There are literally thousands and if not millions of stories about different successful people who failed and were labeled as disasters, dumb, useless, or whatever negative connotation you can think of. These men and women found a way to leverage their failures and are celebrated today as being successful.

So, what do these stories tell us about failure?

Failure is only a temporary setback. It is a stepping stone to success.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
― Winston S. Churchill

What does it mean to be a failure?

A lot of people today are so depressed, sad, and immobilized due to either fear of failing or because they tried something and failed at it. They accepted their circumstances, and have either labeled themselves as failures or not worthy of success.

I remember my first business venture as an entrepreneur, it was nice and also disastrous. I was criticized and called a failure and someone who isn’t cut out for business. 

It took me a long time to realize that my failure in that business was actually a stepping stone to a more adventurous journey as an entrepreneur. Although it was painful, looking back today, I can confidently say I was brave and courageous, and that failure is the wisest teacher of all.

 “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail” ~ Confucius

To answer what it means to be a failure, I’d simply say: failure is someone who fails to try, who avoids risk, and never get to test their abilities, talents, experience, and knowledge. A failure is someone who has accepted less than what they deserve in life.

Take your time to examine the successful people in life. You’d notice that the majority of the people we envision, praise, and adore in our society have all failed at some point in their life. Some have been labeled “stupid”, “unteachable”, “dumb”, or whatever cruel labels we use today. They all at those individual times felt like losers or failures but today the story is different.

Why we fear failure

Now take a closer look at our society today, there’s not a single person who doesn’t fear failure, criticisms, and what people would think of them. The fear of criticism is one of the main reasons why a lot of us fear trying anything worthwhile. It is the reason why a lot of us do not pursue our dreams and ambitions. According to research psychologist Brene Brown, shame is the core reason why people avoid daring greatly in life.

Most of us forget that our society will careless of how much you’ve failed once you succeed, and succeeding with all honesty requires failure- that’s the paradox of failure.

What do successful people have in common?

  • The majority of successful people have failed in one way or another.

“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
― J.M. Barrie

Unlike what the media portrays successful people, most of them have experienced failures in their lifetime and they all learned from their failures.

  • They never allowed their conditions to define them.

People perceive failing as an abomination hence they never get to try anything worthwhile in life, they allow their failure to define them, their future and their happiness. Successful people understand that failure is just a temporary setback and that it is a necessary part of success.

  • Successful people never allowed societal labels to deter them from pursuing their dreams.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
― Robert F. Kennedy

One of the biggest fears of failing is the label that goes with it. A lot of people fear what society will say about them, and what others will think of them. The thought of being called failure is enough to deter a lot of people from pursuing their dreams and ambitions. Successful people don’t put too much of their energy worrying about what people think of them because they have developed high self-worth. All successful people understand their values in life, they know what they are capable of achieving.

  • Successful people are goal-oriented individuals.

When you have a goal or target to achieve, it doesn’t matter if you fail. Having a goal ensures you don’t get distracted from temporary failures. When you fail at something, you simply learn your lessons and make necessary changes and then continue with life. successful people have goals and these goals are what keeps them going even when they encounter failure.

The reason why Failure is Important

  • It teaches you humility.
  • It shows you’re taking a risk and doing something worthwhile.
  • Failure leads often leads to growth.
  • Failure creates an opportunity for you to learn.
  • Failure makes an individual become more inquisitive.
  • It also makes you stronger, and brave to take on new challenges.

Sum Up

Failure doesn’t have to be perceived as something evil or a thing to be avoided by all means. It should rather be something we embrace because it is inevitable in life. The paradox of failure is that it is painful yet its what leads to growth. To sum everything in this article, let us take a cue from Maya Angelou: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”