Seth Godin has a mantra that’s simultaneously simple and profound.
“If I fail more than you, I win.”
How can this be true? How can it be that someone who has hundreds and thousands of failures to their name be counted a success?
It all comes down to how many times you’ve attempted to succeed. I’m sure you’ve heard the famous line from Thomas Edison when a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
History is filled with the stories of great explorers, inventors, scientists, and innovators who are known for their great success. What we forget too often are the innumerable failures leading up to the event that made their name famous. In fact, here’s a pretty cool web page listing scores of people who refused to give up.
Too many of us have allowed our failures to define us. We take pride in achievement but don’t realize that those achievements come at great cost. Successes are not contingent only on the amount of time and effort we give, but also how often we fall down and get back up.
The truth is that in this incremental life that we live it will often feel like we’re not making progress. For every major success there are a thousand tiny setbacks. Yet it is from those painful experiences that we learn and grow, becoming something better than we were before.
It could be argued that failure is essential to success. Failure is the crucible we must endure to become refined, and once refined we become far more valuable.
The only real failure is in giving up.
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Also published on Medium.
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