Author: Lote Steina
There are a bunch of things that social media is notorious for, but what often bugs me the most is people portraying their lives in an unrealistic way. These days our friends, colleagues, or old schoolmates seem to be moving from one achievement to the next without even breaking a sweat. We are not off the hook too. Seeing the perfectly narrated and filtered lives of our friends, we often indulge in the same sin, showing ourselves in the best possible light possible.
This is harmful to individuals and societies in a number of ways, but the greatest harm it does is emitting two of the most fundamental aspects of any success story – struggle and failure. These two things are indispensable to human life. In fact, it is almost certain that failure and adversity instead of success is the first thing most of us experienced on this earth.
Per aspera ad astra (through hardship to the stars) and per ardua ad astra (through struggles to the stars) are maxims attributed to many organizations or causes around the world to this day. These Latin phrases have been around for decades if not centuries and perfectly encapsulate an idea we should never forget – success is sweetest and most rewarding when you struggle for it!
In this blog post I will highlight the main reasons why you should celebrate difficulties and failures and not be ashamed or discouraged by them. Trust me – it is those who stumble that rise the highest!
This is the greatest benefit of any failure.
Failures give us valuable lessons that no other experiences can. Even one of the most successful men to ever live – Bill Gates – has said that “it’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Failures show us things that don’t work or things that need to be improved. It is only through setbacks that we may find errors in our ways and improve things so that we become better, stronger, and smarter. The sooner we are challenged, the better because it helps us grow and improve without hitting us too hard. Trust me – no one is infallible and those who think they are, are the most vulnerable of all. The longer you deny any errors or faults you may have made, the greater the eventual shock or learning curve will be.
Regardless of who you are, it is those who encounter problems or difficulties along the way who will end up being the ones working better and more productively over the long haul. Each failure helps to adjust our skills and approach to work in a way that will increase the quality or work and our overall productivity.
Arrogance and hubris are probably the most unrecognized, but also the most important reasons any individual or structure ends up failing or collapsing. Failures and hardships are wonderful reminders that nothing comes easy. They also do a great job keeping our own ego at bay. Unless we give our best and genuinely appreciate and learn from the stepbacks we encounter, we will eventually be surpassed by someone or something that does. Remember – fortune does not just favor the bold, but also the hardworking!
In addition, those who avoid difficulties or failures will be less likely to appreciate success. Only those who know how it is to stumble every once in a while will truly appreciate and be thankful for success when it comes. This contrast has the added bonus of being a phenomenal motivator. Strive towards a goal and even if you fall along the way, the eventual success will taste all the sweeter for it.
Which fighter is more likely to win – the one who has years of experience under his belt or the one who enters the ring for the first time? I definitely know who I would be putting my money on. The same is true with difficulties and setbacks – the more we embrace and study our failures, the more resilient we become over time. People who struggle to the top are better prepared to keep their position through thick and thin than those who had everything served to them on a golden plate!
It is true that failures tear you down, but they also lead to you being stronger both physically and mentally once you recover. Do not shy away from a challenge, even if the odds are against you. Those who avoid difficulties and failures are more likely to quit any venture they undertake after the first major complication. Those who are not afraid to fail, will also not avoid trying.
The earlier people are introduced to failure, the easier it will be for them to function properly. While the textbook path to success seems pretty self-explanatory – straight As at school and university, hard work, career advancement, a house in the suburbs, three kids, and two cars – in real life the formula is almost never the same.
Difficulties and failures help us understand that we are not all cut from the same cloth both in our expectations and in the path we take to get there. Think about success as a stock market – while over the long haul it goes up, the path there fluctuates quite drastically along the way. Understanding that your personal success story will probably not be entirely like the straightforward line everyone says it will be, will save you a lot of heartache and anxiety along the way. Let failures adjust your expectations and help you chart the path forward.
Failures can be seen as opportunities to start anew or change the direction you are headed in. Sometimes it is painful to let things go if you have put a lot of effort in them. Still – it may be for the best. The easier you can accept failure as a natural part of life, the easier it will be to learn from the mistakes made and apply the lessons you learned to other projects. In addition, now more than ever it is important to understand that nothing is permanent. The better you are at embracing change, the better suited you are for the 21st century life.
Just remember not to focus on the negative things to come out of failure, but to seize all the opportunities and benefits it offers. I’m reminded of the famous Thomas Edison quote which perfectly encapsulates the idea of seeing failure as an opportunity: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.” Trust me, using failures as opportunities to start afresh, would put you in a pretty good company.
All of the most memorable stories – both fictional and not – are those of a protagonist overcoming a challenge. We are wired to love seeing our heroes struggle with their weaknesses and failures only to triumph in the end.
The same narrative is applicable to our relationships and interactions with others. We don’t like show-offs or infallible perfectionists. We like people with interesting stories and life experiences. Most of these experiences include struggles that have been overcome to help the person come out stronger. It is undeniable that stories of difficulties or failures and our response to them usually have people on the edges of their seats.
Even if you don’t have a breathtaking story, it is worth remembering that there is one thing probably everyone in any room will share – failure. The more willing you are to embrace and share your shortcomings and setbacks, the more likeable and relatable you will seem to others. This will not just make you a more attractive and empathetic person to talk to, but could potentially open doors to new relationships and opportunities that will shadow any past failures.