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Fail To Succeed

“Character cannot be developed in peace and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened; vision cleared; ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller

The relationship between trial and suffering is a common theme in the success and motivation literature, although “failure” usually replaces “trial and suffering” in the equation. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said, “All my successes have been built on my failures.” The famous Anon. said, “Failure is a better teacher than success, but she seldom finds an apple on her desk;” and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said, “Most success springs from an obstacle or failure.” Maury Povich joined in too when he said, “There’s got to be a glitch along the way, or else you lose touch with reality.” Robert Louis Stevenson took the concept to the extreme, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits;” and Winston Churchill echoed the theme, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Now isn’t that just dandy. It’s enough to make one get out there and fail just to get firmly on the path to success; and the bigger the failure, the better. “Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success,” according to Napoleon Hill. Perhaps a good measure of trial and suffering would also be a terrific addition to one’s optimal success strategy.

Interestingly, simply failing is, by itself, not sufficient. One must develop the right attitude toward failure. Reggie Jackson suggested, “I feel the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” Dexter Yager said, “A winner is one who accepts his failures and mistakes, picks up the pieces, and continues striving to reach his goals.” It’s a get back on the horse kind of thing. Denis Waitley puts it this way, “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

At least Norman Vincent Peale didn’t buy into the negative approach to success, “We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it is more important to learn from our successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.” The conclusion here is simple. Fail if you absolutely can’t avoid it. If you fail, don’t quit. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. Having said that, success is always more fun than failing and there is never any shame in having fun. The key is to do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time. With that as your personal standard, you won’t always have fun but the odds will definitely favor your proactive approach to success.

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