Why are people afraid of failure? Failure’s not just part of life, it’s essential to life — and to success. Henry Ford put it most eloquently: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently”. You can’t learn if you don’t fail.
The fact is all people will fail more than a few times in our lives.
We tend to learn more from our mistakes than our successes. At our best, we turn them to our advantage. Thomas Edison once said, "I make more mistakes than anyone I know. And eventually I patent them."
Failure is an essential ingredient of innovation — if companies are risk averse, they’ll never develop breakthrough products or create new markets.
The value in failure is the fact that the more you fail — if you treat failure the right way — the more you succeed. The point is to turn failure into learning by not making the same mistake twice.
According to Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford University, coping with failure is a mindset problem:
If you believe that your talents are inborn or fixed, then you will try to avoid failure at all costs because failure is proof of your limitation. People with a fixed mindset like to solve the same problems over and over again. It reinforces their sense of competence.
Children with fixed mindsets would rather redo an easy jigsaw puzzle than try a harder one. Students with fixed mindsets would rather not learn new languages. CEOs with fixed mindsets will surround themselves with people who agree with them. They feel smart when they get it right.
But if you believe your talent grows with persistence and effort, then you seek failure as an opportunity to improve. People with a growth mindset feel smart when they’re learning, not when they’re flawless.
Michael Jordan, arguably the world’s best basketball player, has a growth mindset. Most successful people do. In high school he was cut from the basketball team but that obviously didn’t discourage him: "I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game wining shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
If you have a growth mindset, then you use your failures to improve. If you have a fixed mindset, you may never fail, but neither do you learn or grow.
If you don’t risk failure, you’re not trying hard enough.