Identify someone you consider to be successful and ask that person how many failures he or she had before success came. I guarantee you that any successful person had to learn failure before success. That's what learning is all about: doing it wrong in order to get it right. We don't all succeed at everything we try. Most of us go through failure to reach success, just as we go through fear in order to build courage.
Weightlifting is a great example to illustrate this process of going through failure to reach success. Years ago, when I started building up my scrawny 112 pound body through weight training, my first instructor introduced me to the concept of "going for failure." I didn't think that sounded so fun-"Let's go fail!"-but my coach explained that breaking a muscle down by exhausting it totally was the best way to build it stronger. By going to failure, I prepared my muscles for greater success." I failed so that I eventually could succeed.
Life is no different. Failure is a necessary part of growing and building strength to eventually succeed. Consider the case of a lanky Midwestern boy who chopped wood for his father until he was twenty-one, but who had always hungered for more out of life. He started borrowing books and reading every evening. What he read began to inspire and motivate him to become a risk-taker in the pursuit of success. He was willing to fail in order to succeed, and fail is exactly what he did:
- At age 23 he ran as a candidate for state legislature and lost.
- At age 30 he was bankrupt.
- At age 32 the woman he loved and intended to marry broke off the engagement breaking his heart.
- At age 33 he married another woman who bore him four sons, of which three he lost because they died before reaching adulthood.
- At age 35 he ran again as a candidate for state legislature and again he lost.
- At age 47 he was selected a vice-presidential candidate and again he lost.
- At age 49 he was nominated for the United States Senate and again he lost.
The man described above, however, was elected President of the United States of America at age 51. His frequent experiences of failure gave Abraham Lincoln the resolve to handle the great challenges of his Presidency and the repeated initial failure of the Union forces. He never saw failure as a reason to stop attempting success, and he ultimately changed the course of American history.
Failure is never the end of the road. Failure is how you learn and grow. Whether it's building biceps, achieving financial freedom, becoming the best parent possible, or reaching the Oval Office: you must fail to succeed.