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Failure

These successful people used failure as a stepping stone to success

English poet Alexander Pope said in one of his poems, ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’ This is a seemingly simple sentence that has now become a well-known proverb. It is a known fact that everyone makes mistakes; it is a part of human nature. Success and failure are faces of the same coin, yet failure affects us more. Despite it being perceived as a stepping stone to success, for many, failure is the end of the road. Though people define failure as the lack of success, its true definition is really up to how you interpret it. For some, even small mistakes can feel like failure, while for others even major incidents aren’t enough to weigh them down, because they know, mistakes are inevitable—how we perceive the inevitable makes all the difference.

Living in constant fear of being judged and refusing to even peep out of our socially-accepted comfort zones, we continue to deprive ourselves from meeting our full potential. What we fail to understand is, this fear of judgement will make us sluggish and eventually lead us to our doom.

Edison failed 10,000 times

Fear of judgement makes us vulnerable to criticism and corrodes our creativity. All originality is lost when we push ourselves to come up with ideas to appease the crowd, ultimately leading to failure. Almost all of us have experienced this. An ideal example of this is when we mumble words instead of confidently offering our opinions in a meeting. Caught amid a billion negative thoughts, there are times when we start to sweat and find it difficult to even open our mouths—feeling like victims of furtive whispers and hostile sniggers in the workplace, when none of it is true.

Had American scientist Thomas Alva Edison feared being judged for failing, he would not have invented the electric bulb. When asked about the arduous path he took, he is quoted to have said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

But if you say not everyone is like Edison, you are right. After a big failure, many of us are not up for another 9,999 tries. But sometimes your biggest failures occur just before your biggest leaps forward; you never know when success is just around the corner. Thomas Edison when asked about his perseverance said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

He didn’t give up and walked through the fog of disappointment to achieve what most thought was impossible. You should too.

The Jobs story

With start-ups being the order of the day, one thing is evident. Most successful organisations have emerged from unconventional ideas put forth by individuals who had the courage to crush their fear and were ready to face all hurdles. At this juncture, I am strongly reminded of one of the greatest inventors of our time—Steve Jobs, who redefined the wired world with his brilliant work at Apple.

Fear of judgement makes us vulnerable to criticism and corrodes our creativity. All originality is lost as we push ourselves to come up with ideas to appease the crowd, ultimately leading to failure.


In the early 2000s, nobody in their wildest dreams would have dreamt of having thousands of songs and videos in a gadget half the size of your palm. Jobs did the unthinkable, he introduced the iPod. Jobs was a maverick thinker who revolutionised the gizmo world. He never shied away from presenting his ideas. Had he feared what his colleagues thought about his ideas, we would not have had the privilege of using Apple products. He once said, “Remembering I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment, or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Throw the fear away

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The greatest of great men have failed numerous times. Had they given up, they would never have emerged as winners. Fear is just an emotion like happiness. Sometimes, you need to own fear to overcome it. If order to achieve something big, accept failure as just another part of the deal, but remember, you can undo failure. What you can’t undo or change are the things you never tried. If you don’t try or give up easy, you’ll always wonder about what could have been. One of the heaviest regrets a lot of people bear is they either played it safe or maybe even failed a time or two and gave up. Be assertive and tell yourself that the result is not going to impact you, but the sheer joy lies in trying and making an effort. Sometimes the biggest successes in life comes from saying “just one more time” after hitting the road block of failure.

Before it is too late, why not get out of that shell and think—what if my idea could change the fate of the world?

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