I recently saw a television commercial for the Dyson cyclone vacuum cleaner. The entire commercial was focused on the fact that there had been 5,000 unsuccessful prototypes before arriving at what is arguably one of the best machines on the market. The designer, James Dyson, prided himself – and his team of engineers – on the joy with which they accepted "failure;" because they know that failure paves the road to success.
That commercial made me think of Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison once said to a reporter, who had asked how it failed to fail 25,000 times, "I do not know why you are calling it a failure. Thomas Edison was asked a similar question when asked how it felt to fail 2,000 times before inventing the light bulb. He answered, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process."
A 2,000-step process? I wonder if anyone ever counted how many steps a baby attempts before learning to maintain balance on two-feet. What if babies got frustrated after a couple-hundred attempts at walking and never got up again? As they say, "Can not never could." Falling is part of walking – certainly part of the learning process. If you are not willing to fall, you are not really willing to walk. If you are not willing to fail, you do not have what it takes to succeed.
There is a big difference between learning and failing; but the difference is invisible to the eye. The difference between learning and failing is inside each one of us. The difference lies within our perceptions and conditioning. How we perceive each experience determines how we create and handle our next experiences. If we perceive an initial attempt as a failure, rather than feedback – and one small step on the road to mastery – we may be swayed to stop. We would never stop if we only understand that we always either get exactly what we want, or exactly what we need – often valuable feedback that will absolutely lead us to success. Persistence pays.
The saying, "Practice makes perfect," is another reminder that, in order to be good at something, you must practice something you are not good at. It naturally follows that, when you do something you are not good at, you will not experience immediate and continuous success. You will, however, receive lots of feedback. And, if you simply accept the feedback and apply what you learn by making adjustments in your approach, you will find the success you are looking for. Embrace the process; embrace the path to your goals or dreams. If you stumble on the path, do not curse the path; it is still the path that will carry you to your destination – if you get up, brush yourself off, and keep walking. Practice stumbling, and falling, until you feel quite comfortable with it. When you can respond to a failure in the same way you respond to a success, you have found a great success secret.
Failure lets you know that you are out of your comfort zone – a great place to be – or that you are not paying attention to what you're doing – a great thing to know. In either case, failure is a valuable friend you should embrace. I do not mean that you should seek to fail, or strive to fail; but you should indeed try things that you are not already good at – and practice grace when you do not immediately succeed. If you do not, you'll never learn anything new; and you'll never grow as a person – you'll only age and change shape. Hold on to your dreams, keep your eyes and heart wide open, and embrace all you encounter along your path – it is all scenery on your journey to fulfillment. I prefer the word, "Feedback;" but even if it looks like something you used to call, "Failure," embrace it – it will lead you to great things.