The title sounds like a complete paradox that we would make or forge success through failure in life, but it is true in its meaning and application. Fear is one of the main pitfalls to success in any endeavor you will take on. The definition of success, fear, and failure is subjective, meaning that each might look a little different for every person. I believe it is essential that we clearly define what success looks like and understand what might hold us back from it. Fundamentally, without failure, there would be no progression towards success.
To exemplify this, let’s look at someone we all have probably heard of from history, the creator of the light bulb. Did you know Thomas Edison only spent three months in public school, and the remainder of his education was from his mother and self-taught? Despite this, he went on to come up with 1,093 patents and change the world forever. Edison went through 10,000 versions of the incandescent light bulb before finding an efficient and workable solution. Failure after failure, persistence, and ingenuity was the thread that led to light powered by electricity. To the average citizen in today’s world, Edison’s early life would be the definition of a failure. Still, those things never defined Thomas Edison, and he achieved many great things.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”– Thomas A. Edison
What Is Success For You?
Wherever you come from, you have a role to play in this world. You have special gifts to give unique to you, even if you don’t see them or know them for yourself yet. All success begins with a definite purpose and a clear picture of precisely what you want from life. I have to mention that more money does not always mean more success. Although I understand you may disagree, fulfilling success is not gauged by how much you are worth monetarily. In my humble opinion, money is simply a byproduct of the success you achieve and is only a tool that has no value on its own. It took me a long time to understand this because, in public school, we are conditioned to go into the world and try to make as much money as possible. I am guilty of falling into this trap because, at one point in my life, I would have taken any job in which I could have earned more. Although it might not have the same outcome for you, this left me hollow, unfulfilled, and in a career I didn’t genuinely resonate with. I am very much so still in the journey of defining my own success; looking at examples of great people passed on and alive today, I have learned a lot about this.
One of the main reasons people don’t succeed is because they don’t take the time to figure out what it looks like for themselves and the steps required to get there. Knowing this, we can begin to think deeper on an individual level about our own definition of success through introspection. This is where most articles on this topic would give you a series of steps and questions to ask yourself, but I don’t think it can be put into some formula to figure out. For the sake of writing this, I will share what works for me. I never box myself in, but I try to keep in mind financial stability, creative freedom, and what I want my life to look like. There are some questions I ask myself, like where do I want to be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years? And, how will these goals help other people in the world? Then I build the small daily habits that are in alignment with the answer to those questions. This may or may not work for you, but keep in mind defining your success is something that can be easy to overcomplicate; keep it simple.
If you really believe in the answers you came up with to your version of success in life, don’t let others’ opinions stifle you from the goal. As Lao Tzu said, ‘Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.’ This can be difficult to get over, especially if it is a loved one who is not supportive. But you have to look at the price you will pay if you don’t go for it, and that is regret. Begin by making a plan and get really specific about the steps you will need to take to make it happen. Then with the framework of all of this, you can really begin to take action, which might look like different habits, learning a skill, quitting your job, moving to a new country or state, and the list goes on and on. Start small, build momentum, and never give up.
If you endeavor to begin aligning your life with your version of success, remember the battleground of thought and the resistance that tries to push us back down. Whatever your mind feeds upon (in thought), your mind attracts to you. Your thoughts, conscious or unconscious, are the predecessor to all the actions and, therefore, the results you will receive from life. You may have heard the term, where your focus goes, your energy flows. An easy way to apply this is to ask yourself, will this [insert task, action, habit, thought, person, job, etc.] bring me closer to the success I want in life. This is why we must take responsibility to organize our thoughts, time, and life in alignment with the end goal of success. By taking responsibility, we overcome the victim mentality and replace it with the victor mentality. We are not defined by our parents, past, income, diplomas, or jobs. The only definition of yourself that matters is the one you are defining.
How Can Failure Forge Success?
I am sure you may have heard something along these lines at some point in your life – better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. Of course, no one wants to fail, but when you do something you’ve never done before, it is inevitable to encounter difficulty at some point. When we fail, it is easy to focus on what we lost rather than what we now know from that failure, so we don’t repeat the same mistake again. Or maybe it was the wrong career choice, you might think, ‘I wasted 10 years for nothing’, rather than, ‘Wow, I have 10 years of experience to now apply to a different industry, providing a whole new perspective.’ This is because the mind has a built-in negative bias, and it takes self-control and observation of thought to reframe our perspective of failure.
We view failure as the destructive force that would cancel our success in society, but what if it was the secret to success? In school, we are taught to get As, and if we get an F, we have failed. This impression leaves a lasting impact on people, that failure is always wrong. Two psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who won a Nobel Prize for their work, found an intriguing answer to why we are so opposed to failure. They found that the effect from loss is twice as significant as the gain from a win. Basically, this showed a more considerable impact on the brain from loss or failure compared to a win. Therefore, we will go to great lengths to avoid situations that put us in the position to even possibly fail.
Yes, it is incredibly unpleasant when we fail, lose, or get something wrong, and it is easier to circumnavigate things to intentionally avoid failure. But, it is also the same thing that precedes great success. If we begin to re-invent our outlook on failure, we will revolutionize its effect on us when we fail. It is not as something that slows us down, but rather something that brings us one step closer to our definition of success. As Robert Kiyosaki puts it, “sometimes we win, sometimes we learn.” Another excellent example of someone we can look to regarding this is Jeff Bezos, who said, “Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We [Amazon] understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.”
Failure is not only a clue that you are on the right path to success, but it is a part of success. You just have to ask yourself, which is greater your desire to succeed or your fear of failure?
Self-Discipline, Persistence, and Overcoming Fear
Self-Discipline – the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
Persistence – firm or obstinate continuance in the course of action despite difficulty or opposition.
These are some of the other vital ingredients to concocting your very own success in life. If you begin on your journey, you will recognize self-discipline will be required to achieve whatever you want to accomplish. If you don’t realize this, the journey will take you down a different path than your desired outcome. Self-discipline is excellent, but we should combine it with relentless persistence to keep going. Persistence is essentially self-discipline put into action. In the face of failure and resistance, you will have the option to give up. If you don’t quit too soon, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor. Sowing and reaping is a universal law; if you apply self-discipline and consistently work at your calling to success, you will get results. As elementary and straightforward as it sounds, quitters never win, and winners never quit.
Your best plans may fall apart, and you have to be realistic in your aims. In the face of those plans falling apart, remember optimism gives you resilience. There are many books, videos, articles about building self-discipline, optimism, and persistence, and if you think you would benefit from those, do a Google search. However, it is another one of those simple things we often overcomplicate: do the work every day according to your definition of success and don’t make excuses. Napolean Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, said, “Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
When you cultivate this self-discipline mindset and persistence with affirmations, meditation, prayer, or whatever works for you and put in the work, you will begin to naturally overcome fear. Day by day, in small, realistic increments, you will bring yourself closer to success. You are the only one that can stop you from pursuing whatever it is you want in life.
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Author bio: My name is Kurt Emling; I am a library scientist by day, helping public libraries across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, and an avid learner plus writer by night. My blog is called Katalepsis, and it is all about proactive life-applicable, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and much more. My hope is to help in any way I can.