When we are failing, we’re not necessarily having a failure. If we view the failure as a successful attempt to find one way success cannot be achieved, then each failure brings us closer to success. Or as Thomas Edison put it, when asked how he managed to go on after having failed to create a light bulb for the 10 000th time:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison
Think of life as a labyrinth. There are numerous choices to be made, left or right turns to take, and each choice can end up in a dead end or take us closer to the exit of the labyrinth.
Whenever we reach a dead end, if we take time to observe the situation and note how we got there, even though we’ve just experienced a failure, this failure can help us get closer to the successful solution, if we remember the failing path taken.
How failing takes us closer to success
As the example with Thomas Edison suggests, trying to reach a goal an insane number of times is not insane, if each attempt is slightly different. Thomas Edison would not have been celebrated as the inventor of the light bulb if he had tried the exact same procedure for 10 000 times, then he would have been considered… well let’s just say he would have been considered very odd and unusual.
On the other hand, it’s important to really find out what failed and what just happened at the same time as the failure. One way to avoid failing to create a light bulb is to never try again after the first failure, however, since Thomas Edison did invent the light bulb, that approach would have been a failure … at least when it comes to inventing the light bulb.
Life is complex
The above quote from Thomas Edison, and the story about his 10 000 attempts to invent a light bulb doesn’t reveal what his family and friends thought when he kept trying. Perhaps they thought he was insane and finally distanced themselves from him, and his insistent search for the light bulb might have turned his family life into a failure. (I actually have no clue what Thomas Edison’s family life was like!)
This is a more tricky problem, because life isn’t just about one single path or problem. Life is a whole weave of different things going on at the same time, colliding, conflicting, and sometimes, when it feels like the forces of the Universe is on our side, they may even cooperate towards the same goal.
The good news is that if we apply the same attitude towards failure to make the whole life puzzle fit together, failing to make ends meet or giving all important people in your life the energy and attention they need or deserve only means you have to change the plan a bit.
The failure is just another successful proof of how it cannot be done.