When have you ever failed at something that was important to you, whether in school, at home, with your friends or anywhere else? How did you react to that failure? Did anything positive come out of it? What?
In a 2010 Opinionator post, “The Power of Failure,” William D. Cohan writes:
…true leaders understand the importance of making mistakes and learning from them. In a legendary graduation speech at Stanford University, in 2005, Steve Jobs emphasized the importance of failure to success, particularly after he was fired, at age 30, from Apple, the company he co-founded. “It turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” he said. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life.”
In his May 2009 baccalaureate address to Duke’s graduating class, Sam Wells, the dean of Duke University Chapel, hoped the students would “never be dazzled by your own success … and not pretend success is everything or success makes you immortal. And, most of all, that you’ll let your life begin the day you really, seriously fail, and let that day be the day you discover who you truly are and whether that failure is really in a cause that will finally succeed. … The most powerful person in the world is the one who isn’t paralyzed by the fear of their own failure.”
There is enormous power in failure, especially when one learns from it. Wall Street has been making a lot of mistakes lately. But will it bother to ever learn from them? And will we have the courage to return Wall Street to a less exalted place? The answer to these questions will increasingly come to define what America is all about in the future.
Students: Tell us about your own relationship to failure, however you define it. Are you comfortable failing, or terrified of it? Do you agree that “there is enormous power in failure” and that sometimes failing is the best thing that could ever happen to a person? Tell us about a time in your life when you failed at something, and what happened as a result.
Teachers: Use this question with our related lesson plan, “Sowing Failure, Reaping Success: What Failure Can Teach.”
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
Essay on Failure
Most people fail at some point in their lives. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of life. People have to generally fail at something before they find success – even though failure can be defined as a lack of success, an unsuccessful person, enterprise or thing, a lack or deficiency of a desirable quality. But failure is not a means to an end, nor does failure have to give any indication of permanence. What is permanent is not getting started in the first place out of fear of failure. To fail is to fail to hit one’s target, whatever it may be, but it doesn’t prevent one from trying again.
A lot of times, a person fails because they failed to adequately prepare for success. This extends to all aspects of life that people want to improve upon relationships, career-related objectives, and personal achievements. Most people want to a better life, have goals and things they want to do in life. A good deal of time and effort go into preparing for something important – any important undertaking. It seems that many people pursue success half-heartedly, with little effort and preparation, and they wonder why the fail. Preparation is the key to avoiding failure, or it at the very least minimizes one’s chances of failing. But it’s not always a certainty.
To lessen the likelihood of failure, one has to do things to maximize their probability of success. This can be changing one’s daily lifestyle habits, for one example. A person focused on accomplishing something, on creating success, will have to dedicate their free time to this cause. This means early nights and even earlier mornings, staying home and working instead of going out and spending money or wasting one’s time. Failure can often be attributed to a lack of commitment to success. Everyone – well, perhaps most people – strive for success. People as a whole don’t strive to fail at things in life. They generally want to excel at them.
Lifestyle habits are important when considering their effect on failure, but one’s mental habits are also a key part of success. A person convinced of their success, or that it will assuredly happen in the near future, will most likely be successful in life. They are seeing their success, what it looks and feels like, play out in their minds. This is the start of the Law of Attraction at work. The Law of Attraction is a theory arguing that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, a person can bring about positive or negative results. If a person yearns for success, thinks about it, dreams about it, always has their mind on it, the better their chances will be for them achieving success. This means they will be less likely to fail later.
Failure can also be prevented with the right kind of foresight. It is a highly discussed and much-believed notion that a person’s success occurs in direct proportion to their ability to see how everything, every decision that is being made right now, affects their life down the road. People who are prone to failure live mostly for the day, or the next few days, and they neglect to consider the future – even the distant future. This is probably one of the strongest indicators of whether a person will fail or succeed in life.
Success – in whatever form – is not an easy thing to come about, to find. Rather it is created from lots of hard work, preparation, persistence and unrelenting confidence. Failure, on the other hand, results from a lack of these things. To conclude, failure is the absence of success, and failure is also not a means to an end, but an opportunity to learn from failure. Everybody fails at some point in their lives. What matters most is moving forward and never giving up on success. It will happen soon enough despite failure.
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