Success & failure. – A mirror perspective

Updated: Nov 6


While many might consider Success and Failure very distant concepts, these are actually as closely related as day and night; one cannot exist without the other. Let’s explore each concept in its true nature. 


Success is a subjective assessment of a process, a product, or a service. What some consider success is also viewed by others, as a near win.  


You probably have heard the statement, “A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He is remembered for many achievements, including his quote, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” He is also known for creating a filament for the electric bulb. Some believe he failed 10,000 times before he succeeded in coming up with what is known today as a functional filament bulb (a light bulb).


It is common to hear successful business people explain how many times they tried product after product, business ideas, wrong partnerships, etc., experiencing frustration and disappointment. Many business people give up and become a statistic. However, those few who try one more time, happen to be the successful business leaders able to mentor other apprentices, guide new upcoming professionals, and teach by sharing their experiences. Each successful business person experienced failure first-hand.


A good example of a successful business person is Jack Ma. His job applications were rejected 30 times when trying to find employment in his hometown of Hangzhou, China. Jack was even the only person rejected out of 24 applicants seeking work at KFC. Today, Jack is one of the richest people in the world with a net worth of $36 billion according to Forbes. Mr. Ma is the founder of Alibaba, the world's biggest online commerce company. 


Another example of success after failure is Steve Jobs. The Apple III computer had many issues including stability challenges and a motherboard that got hot too soon because Steve thought the fan was too loud and decided to remove it. After several iterations, Apple created a product that would become a gold standard in the market. Let’s not forget that Steve Jobs was fired from his own company in 1985. He invested extra energy reflecting on his failure before creating NeXT Computer. This new company experienced several challenges and eventually became so attractive that Apple bought NeXT in 1997 for $429 million. Over time, Steve Jobs became one of the best entrepreneurs of his time.


Depending on the circumstances, and what we are trying to accomplish, it is almost guaranteed that in the process, we will fail at least once. What will define us is not how many times we fail, but rather how many times we get up. 


Now, let’s review how Failure is perceived by those who have embraced it as an experience in their journey to success. 


By definition, Failure is the lack of success. It is the omission of expected or required results. 


NASA flight controller Jerry C. Bostick stated “Failure is not an option,” during the mission to bring the damaged Apollo 13 back to Earth, and that phrase has been engraved into the collective memory ever since. When people adopt a positive mindset, Failure becomes a steppingstone. In fact, some consider Failure as taking you one step closer to success. 

Failure is part of living. This is well explained in the famous phrase by J.K. Rowling “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”


In business, we should find the Achilles Heel of any project to address it before it becomes a problem. In the process, we are bound to make mistakes. Your first failure on anything should become a lesson if you learn from it. However, if you go through it again, that failure becomes a mistake, one that should have been avoided or better managed. 


Michael Jordan, the former NBA player, deserves a place in history for his amazing professional sports career. However, he stated “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


Bill Gates's first business called Traf-O-Data is probably not known by most people. It was a big failure, but Gates did not stop trying. The unfavorable results of his first business did not stop him from creating a global empire also known as Microsoft. 


Failure is progress towards your goals. It is a warm-up to the upcoming success. The preparation for what eventually becomes your accomplishments. It is a way of life telling us “You are not ready yet, but keep trying. You are getting better at it” Failure is also subjective as it can mean different things to different people, depending on expectations.

Failure isn’t the end of the road as long as you don’t give up. It is simply an opportunity to begin again but this time more intelligently. It is on us to convert failure into knowledge and wisdom. 


Remember, Success is not giving up when you have failed. Perseverance paves the way to success. 


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