“There’s no such thing as failure. Just lessons learned.”
That’s a popular line that you’ll hear pretty often throughout business and the world of self-development.
But is it true?
Or is it completely off?
Like most things, it depends.
When it comes to failure, I’m an expert.
I’ve failed a ton. Here’s the short version of my list of failures.
Before my senior year in college, I failed on a test that almost completely erased my chances of getting into the grad schools I wanted to get into. I broke down in a hotel bathroom in New Orleans. That’s when I decided to give entrepreneurship a try. (That’s a story for another time.)
Little did I know that I just chose the path of most resistance!
The first business didn’t take long to flop. And neither did the second.
Businesses don’t flop because we never made a mistake, you know? They flop because the failures were more impactful than the successes. That was true in my case.
My businesses now are a little more successful and stable, but there’s never a day when I feel like I’m out of the woods. There are always fires to put out. There are always things we aren’t delivering on.
In other words, there are always failures.
“Learning” can’t always make up for failure.
Full transparency: I buy into the idea that there’s no such thing as failure, just lessons.
But that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Personally, I hold that aspirational belief because it helps me deal with failures. I remind myself to take risks and learn from them instead of running and hiding from them.
I’m not perfect with that approach, but I’m aware of it.
We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that there’s absolutely no such thing as failure. While that idea might be comforting, it can also be dangerous.
Regardless of what we’ve learned from the situation, there are failures that have legitimate consequences for us and for others.
And those consequences can’t be covered up by “learning experiences.”
So what’s another way to approach failure?
There’s a solution that rests in the middle.
Life wouldn’t be worth it if we never took a chance, so let’s take chances. But let’s not justify whatever failure we have by saying that we learned from it. That’s a selfish approach.
It’s completely ok to feel mad and hurt by failure.
That’s especially true if others suffered from your failure. Understand that there are failures so major that chalking them up to “a learning experience” is almost unforgiveable. Those types of failure are rare, but they exist.
Smaller failures are more common.
For these, learn. Then remedy.
Failure will happen when you try.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Photo: Flickr/François Philipp