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Failure- How to Do It Well

Updated on February 14, 2014

The title says it all; we spend so much time trying to avoid failure, we forget that success is intricately tied to the way we fail. If our mistakes become obstacles, we are failing at failing. Yet if we learn to associate success with failure, we win no matter what the outcome. Failure becomes just another stepping stone to success.

Great Leaders Failed A LOT

Since history tends to highlight great achievements, it's easy to forget that some of our most well-known leaders, authors, and entrepreneurs did a lot of failing before they hit it big. Let's look at a couple...

The Wright Brothers

Walt Disney
Can you believe he was fired from a newspaper job because he lacked imagination?! This guy went broke more than once before the Disney empire was born. His name is on the front of amusement parks, merchandise, movies, and Disney even owns ABC! All from a man who went bankrupt from a failed business start up.

Steven King
His first manuscript was rejected 30 times. If the king of suspenseful fiction can be rejected over and over before hitting it big, why do you think you won’t have your fair share of defeat?

William Wilberforce
This man worked tirelessly to abolish the slave trade in Britian. It took him twenty years to get a bill passed in Parliament. How many of us would continue with a project that was rejected for two decades? That is impressive and this man changed a lot of lives as a result.

The Wright Brothers
They failed numerous times before successfully getting a glider off the ground. Talk about some big risk; trying to get a machine in the air is life threatening and a mistake was costly. They even kept careful track of their failures so they could learn from them.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Over 140 publishers rejected these two authors before someone took a chance on their book. It was Chicken Soup for the Soul and has sold millions of copies all over the world. Don’t you wish you were them?

Abraham Lincoln
One of the greatest and memorable presidents of this country had significant experience with failure. He was elected president in 1860 and do you want to know what happened before then? He suffered at least ten major political failures. Not just any failure, the type of failure that would seemingly hurt someone trying to run for president. The man had a nervous breakdown! This guy was defeated over and over again and then took the Oval Office. That is remarkable! It is a great story of hope for all of us who are getting really good at failure and defeat.

If only we could all be so cute when we're stuck

What Do All These People Have Common?

  • They took big risks
    You will not make any progress if you keep life in the "safe" zone. Big success is produced from big risk. There are all kinds of risks in life; physical (rock climbing), emotional (being vulnerable with someone), mental (applying for a school that's a long shot), spiritual (having faith in God), and financial (starting up that business).
  • They had a goal
    It didn’t matter if the world thought them incapable and unworthy for the task, the goal was set in front of them always. In many cases, these people failed in the sector they were working in. It's not like a swimmer who failed at sewing; it's like a swimmer who gets kicked off the swim team!
  • They didn’t give up
    Persistence is the key to success. It helps to have intelligence, skill, and talent- but without persistence, you will not get anywhere. If one angle doesn’t work, try another, then another. Don’t let go just because you hit a few bumps along the way.
  • They enjoyed the process (well that may be a little generous!)
    If you are too focused on the end result, you’ll forget to enjoy the process. People who can take in life lessons along the way ultimately get to their destination faster. There’s a ton of learning to be had in mistakes. Don’t waste them.

He learned something that day! Learning= success, and a slightly sore tongue.
He learned something that day! Learning= success, and a slightly sore tongue.

Fear Zaps Creativity

People who are afraid to fail will inevitably end up failing more. When you are afraid, the parts of your brain that inspire creativity, spontaneity, and hope are suppressed. Think about the difference between two people about to jump off a cliff. One person is terrified to jump- the other one knows there is a safety net and doesn't have a care in the world. The person who is free will jump harder than the one who is terrified. Failure is not going to kill you, I promise.

Silence the Critic

As with any new endeavor, critics usually abound. But the truth is, nothing new would ever flourish if critics ran the world. Is there a critic on your shoulder? My guess is the biggest critic in your life is you. Get rid of him (or her). Nothing will zap your creativity faster than someone bent on making you feel horrible for not getting it right the first time. The truth is,

"If you don't quit, you win."

- Julie DeNeen


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    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Great perspective. :) I try to learn everything I can from my critics on an intellectual level, but it is important to not let them affect me emotionally in the process.

    • heavenleigh707 profile image

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Julieeeeee! Yeah, Baby! Just what I needed! Thanks a million!!! ;)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Funny I came across this today. I was complaining about my photos lacking the clarity of others I see online and my wife kept telling me I was nuts! (Well, she often tells me that!) Because I can 't spend over $1,000 for a better lens right now I have to stop being my own worst critic and learn technique before thinking better equipment will make me an artist! Anyway, I might not have expressed myself well but I wanted you to know I enjoyed your post. Or hub. Whatever this is.

    • luckychanmd profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      I really liked this hub! I agree that when you don't quit, you've already won half the battle. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @sunshine - LOL :)

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @jeannieinabottle- thank you for stopping by!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 

      6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thanks for sharing this! I was just saying the other day how the most successful people usually started out as failures. Great hub and voted up!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @sunshine- thank you!! :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm back again just because I think this hub truly rocks!!

    • Sue St. Clair profile image

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris

      Your hub is an encouragement to not give up. It is like one of those inspirational posters that has been written out in greater detail.

    • CriticalMessage profile image


      6 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      It is the way in which we manage adversity that determines our strength in character... I've managed a lot of adversity... I have a lot of character... Lessons learned our reward for mistakes... Really, not such a bad deal... I love this article Julie!!

    • catgypsy profile image


      6 years ago from the South

      I read somewhere recently that if you don't fail, you're doing something wrong...haha. But I think there is a kernel of truth in that.

      Great hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Julie

      Failure makes us stronger if we use it as a learning opportunity.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      Seriously? That's crazy!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I knew about Stephen King's rejection, but not about Disney's lack of imagination! Great Hub!

    • iTommyGuns profile image


      6 years ago from Blakeslee, PA

      My favorite failure of more recent is Steve Jobs. He was forced out of apple, the company he founded, created NEXT, and bought a dying company called Pixar. Well we all know about his successful return of Apple, but most don't know about the early failures at apple and Pixar.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Yep, along the way I tripped on a tree root and had to get bandaged up :). But, I did en up making it to your hub, just a little late :)

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      thanks everyone,

      @josh- I knew you'd find me eventually!

      @thecrazzykylex- Edison was great at failure I agree. I just picked a few people, otherwise I could have gone on and on forever. There are a lot of good failures in life!! :)

      @TR Brown- I agree completely, failure teaches way more than success ever could I think.

    • thecrazzykylex profile image

      Crazzy Kylex © 2012 

      6 years ago from Incredible India!

      Stephen King has been my greatest inspiration, when it comes to failure. But how can you miss out Thomas Alva Edison who failed 999 times!!!

      “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

      By the way, once again a great hub, Julie!

    • nothuk profile image


      6 years ago from Varna, Bulgaria

      Great article about great people ! Congratulations on the wonderful and interesting hub !

    • snowdrops profile image


      6 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Julie, great work! I always know that successful people have double rejections in the past but they just dont stop believing in themselves!

    • poojasd7 profile image


      6 years ago from India

      Very motivating!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Julie, once again great hub! I was suprised when I saw this hub on your 100 days challend hub; it didn't come through my email! I usually hop on over immeditely because I enjoy your hubs! So, here I am, LOl I enjoyed the section you entitled taking risks, so very true! In order to succed we have to be willing to take risks and fail. Great hub Julie , Voted up and more! And shared! :)

    • T. R. Brown profile image

      T. R. Brown 

      6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I have always found that failure is a much better teacher than success. With success we celebrate, with failure, we analyze. Celebration is great, but analysis is the learning moment. Thanks for a great Hub Julie.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great message you're putting across. Not everyone gets it right the first time but that doesn't mean you should ever give up on your dreams.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Of all the wonders I created and all the people I helped everyday is a reminder of my failure (or sacrifice?)

    • mom4autism profile image


      6 years ago from Northeast U.S.

      Love this and after having such a bad day today I feel so much better about not being perfect!!! This is a perfect reminder for people to not give up just keep plugging away! Voting up!

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      I am the friend mentioned above. This was very good timing. Thanks for the uplift!


    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @billybuc- you are absolutely right...

      @sunshine- I was surprised about Disney too, I love him!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Julie, I endorse this one 100%. Bravo for your message! Someone once said that if you haven't failed then you have never tried! I learned so much from my failures; they are some of my greatest assets.

      Great hub my friend!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was just talking to a friend today about Stephen King and his many rejection slips. Isn't that ironic about Walt Disney? Ha! Excellent research and hub!


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