Do You Have a Favorite Failure? The Importance of Learning from Setbacks
Success stories often appear as if they follow a straight line, but the truth is that every person, every company, every idea has had setbacks along the way. These setbacks are what truly make us better individuals, teach us about ourselves, and allow for future growth.
As Tim Ferriss, author, and host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, wisely asks every guest: do you have a favorite failure? Every person’s answer is unique, but they all acknowledge that their success can be attributed to a single setback or a string of failures that ultimately motivated them to improve and try again. Failure is an opportunity for growth and learning, and it’s how we achieve great things.
Famous individuals such as Steven Spielberg, Chris Pratt, Sylvester Stallone, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, Katy Perry, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Beyonce, James Dyson, Stephen King, Vincent Van Gogh, and Jay-Z all had to overcome setbacks and failures to achieve their success.
Steven Spielberg was rejected multiple times from USC’s School of Cinematic Hearts before releasing the 1975 classic Jaws. Chris Pratt was homeless and living in a van in Hawaii when he was nineteen before he finally made it onto the big screen. Sylvester Stallone was so poor at one point that he had to sell his dog for $40 just to buy food. Oprah Winfrey was born into deep poverty in Mississippi, physically, mentally, and sexually abused during her childhood, and ran away from home and got pregnant when she was only fourteen-years-old. Jim Carrey grew up extremely poor in Canada, and during his first stand-up comedy performance, he was booed off the stage. J.K. Rowling was broke, living on welfare, and supporting a child on her own before writing one of the most successful book series in modern history. Katy Perry’s first record label went out of business after her first album sold only two hundred copies. Thomas Edison’s first company went bankrupt, followed by his second company. Beyonce lost in her first talent show when she was just nine years old. James Dyson developed over 5,000 failed prototypes before finding the bagless vacuum brand. Stephen King was rejected over and over again, and his first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times. Vincent Van Gogh never actually got to see how much of a success he was. Of his 900 paintings, only one was sold while he was alive. Finally, Jay-Z sold drugs in his youth before becoming a successful rapper and businessman.
These are all examples of individuals who have turned their setbacks into successes. Success is not linear, and setbacks can bring valuable learning experiences. Failure should not be feared but embraced. Failure is necessary for growth, and it’s through our failures that we learn our ability to grow in life, love, goals, and happiness.
As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.” Success may not happen overnight, but so long as you don’t give up, it will be there waiting for you. It’s essential to remember that everyone has failed at some point in their life, and setbacks don’t define us. What matters is how we pick ourselves up, move on, and use that setback as fuel for future success.