A great mentor once told me that I should stop believing in failure

April 23, 2020
There's no such thing as failure - just a series of "not-yet" successes

It’s easy to fall into the habit of feeling like everything we do is a little bit of a failure. Sometimes we want to make a little more money, or run a little bit faster, or sing a little bit better. Every time we try, we’re setting ourselves up for failure, and that’s scary and intimidating. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Trying doesn’t have to set us up for failure

I had a wonderful mentor in college who once told me that I need to stop believing in failure. My fear of failure was causing a lot of why I considered myself to be failing. She told me that simply not believing in failure would change my life and set me up for more success than I thought possible. 

You didn't fail, you just haven't succeeded yet
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I asked her how I could just stop “believing in failure.” Its a part of life! She smiled and simply said that if I really wanted to succeed, then everything I considered a failure was really just a “not-yet” success. And furthermore, if I didn’t persevere long enough to go from “not-yet” success to success, then I never really wanted to succeed in the first place. And in that case, I didn’t fail because I didn’t want it. 

I was puzzled because I, like everyone around me, was constantly telling myself that I had failed at something. But her words, as academic as they sounded, started to resonate. Over time I found it was simple, really. 

I either want to succeed bad enough to work until I do, or I don’t want it bad enough to succeed and therefore I didn’t fail because I never really wanted it. 

Who are you to tell me to stop believing in failure?

On the surface, this sounds like a dismissive perspective by a professor. But as you think about it longer, it’s a simple mindset shift that changed my life. My fear of failure was gone. It was replaced with confidence that I would succeed, someday, because every time I “failed,” I in-fact just found one more way I hadn’t yet succeeded. 

Thomas Edison and the thousand failures

We quote Thomas Edison all the time for this mindset:

“I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work”

Thomas Edison
Failure is a lack of perseverence
Photo by LED Supermarket from Pexels

But more often than not, the people quoting these words constantly tell themselves they’re failing at something. So in the face of this timeless stroke of genius, let’s build confidence and resilience into our lives. Let’s change the dialogue, so when a colleague tells you they failed, remind them they just haven’t yet succeeded.

There is no such thing as failure, just a series of “not-yet” successes


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