Sometimes our biggest weaknesses can turn into our biggest strengths. That sounds like a motivational poster, but only because it’s true. No one likes failure, but it’s essential to becoming successful. Very few people experience true success on their very first try.
There are two types of people in this word: those that have experienced failure, and those that are lying. Everyone experiences failure at some point. Everyone.
Have you ever failed at getting a job? Were you really bummed out and wondered what it is you did wrong? About twenty years ago, a recent graduate desperately tried to get a job at Netscape. He couldn’t get an interview, so he hung around the Netscape lobby hoping his persistence would pay off.
At the time, he was a little too shy to bother people. In fact, he just hung around the lobby, not speaking to anyone, hoping for the best. Needless to say he didn’t get the job. You can say definitively that he failed. That guy then turned around and started his own company, Zip2, which is sold for more than 300 million. His failure didn’t define him.
Elon Musk may seem like he cannot fail, but he did fail. He failed to get a job at Netscape. He took that failure and learned from it. He did this with all his failures. Tesla has almost gone bankrupt. SpaceX has crashed numerous rockets.
Having a failure doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.
PayPal was Elon’s second company. It sold for 1.5 billion dollars. Most people don’t know about the other half of PayPal, CTO Max Levchin. He failed a lot too.
“The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.”
— Max Levchin
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s the most common route to success. You show me a success; I’ll show you all the failures it took to get there.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates
Here’s how you can turn your next failure to success.
1. Learn Something
The best thing about failure is that you learn from the entire ordeal. Just as Elon learned to speak up after his first experience at Netscape, he also learned how persistence can pay off. He may not have known how persistent he had to be at Netscape, until he failed at it.
Every time SpaceX crashes a rocket, they learn something. In fact, they expect them to crash so that they can learn something. Sometimes it’s the only way.
PayPal failed to convince banks to use their products. This failure led to their greatest success: paying for users. They needed to fail at traditional methods, in order to discover their own. They offered new signups $10, and $10 for referrals. This lead to viral growth.
Whatever you’re attempting, know that failure is important to be the best at what you’re trying to achieve. Look back at your failure, what did you learn? What can you take from it? This was the point of the failure.
2. Be Persistent, Get Experience
Whether you’re good at something at not, you’re getting experience. One of the biggest secrets for turning failure into a success is not giving up. Once you fail, if you stop working towards your goal, you’re no longer getting the experience you need to reach the goal.
Try to visualize success like a two-liter bottle. Success is at the two-liter mark. You need to fill it with experience before you can reach success. Sometimes you’ll be adding a drop, and sometimes a cup full. Sometimes that water be a small victory, sometimes it’s a massive failure – but the experience all adds up to filling the bottle.
When you fail at a particular project, promotion, goal, or business, just remember that it’s all experience. This is invaluable. You can’t buy experience. You need to spend time earning it. The only way for someone to learn what’ve you’ve learned is to walk in your footsteps. Be persistent, continue filling up your experience, and with each failure you’ll be just a little bit closer to success.
3. Have, And Follow Multiple Paths
If failure teaches us anything, it’s that there are multiple paths to success. With so many different routes to get there, there’s no right or wrong answer. Even with Elon Musk, it’s likely that he may have still had success even if he did land the job at Nestcape.
There are many paths to achieve your ultimate goal. Failure simply guides us to the ultimate goal. There are many different paths, many different ways to fail. Every path is unique.
This is what makes failure so palatable. If you let go of the fact that there’s only one way to get there, you’ll be able to accept it. Failure is no longer catastrophic. It’s just a road block on one road. You simply take another avenue, and you’ll eventually get there.
If you look back on your life until this point, everything you’ve done has led you on this path to where you are. However, there are other paths to reach the same destination. That’s how your coworkers got there.
4. Know That Now is the Right Time to Fail
Whether it’s a new job, business, or other goal, if you wait for the right conditions, you’re just putting off what’s necessary. This is why it’s always the perfect time to start making a big career change. Most people spend their entire lives waiting for the right conditions to they don’t fail.
If you don’t start failing, you won’t start succeeding. That first step is really hard. You may even fail in a massive way. If you don’t start filling up your success bottle, you’ll never get there.