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  • Bill Petrie

Don’t Fear Failure!

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

(Henry Ford)

We all know that an alarmingly high proportion of businesses fail but, if we fail and if we have the guts to learn from failure and stand up again and again, the final outcome is often favorable.

Many successful people have gone through this process including Henry Ford himself:

  • Ford’s early business attempts were a disaster. His first auto company went out of business and so did several others. In the end, he went on to found the Ford Motor Company and the rest is history!

  • Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was ‘too stupid to learn anything.’

  • Albert Einstein didn’t fare much better. His teachers labeled him ‘slow’ and ‘mentally handicapped.’

  • Walt Disney was fired by his newspaper editor because, ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’ A number of his early businesses failed and he went bankrupt in the process. In 2012 the Walt Disney Company had a net income of nearly 10 billion dollars.

  • Harrison Ford was told after his first film that he would ‘never succeed.’ He presently ranks as the fifth highest grossing U.S. domestic box-office star of all time.

  • ‘Colonel’ Saunders’ Kentucky Fried chicken was rejected by over 1000 restaurants before he tasted success.

  • Even Bill Gates failed in his first business. The name alone (Traf-O-Data) was probably enough to sink it! Today, he is the richest person in America with a net worth of over 72 billion dollars.

Another person who initially failed miserably is J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

In 2008, she gave an address to the new graduates at Harvard and it’s worth quoting a portion of it here:

“What I feared most for myself at your age” she said, “was not poverty, but failure.”

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

“Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.”

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

And, rebuild she did! To date, J.K. Rowling has earned well in excess of a billion dollars.

What these people’s lives demonstrate is that we can survive and even benefit from failure. If we are prepared to learn, to truly learn, from these often very expensive events, we can give ourselves the opportunity to rise up again, more than a little wiser, and much nearer to success.

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