You don't know the true value of success if you've never known defeat. Far Eastern literature often speaks of the world in harmonies; what is darkness without light, sound without silence, etc.? The same must be said of those who have become truly successful in the world. The concept of success loses meaning and integrity if never associated with the concept of failure.
Humility is one of the great lessons of failure. Without humility, it is very easy for a person to develop a sense of entitlement; what doesn't seem like it's owed to you when you get everything you've ever wanted or needed? This begins a harrowing cycle of apathy towards others who don't show the same level of prosperity as you. This leads to dangerous behavior because a failure is inevitable, and when it surprises someone like a thief in the night, they can lose a sense of sanity.
But for the person who knows what it means to lose, what it means to suffer, any and every success seems like a blessing, and becomes so for everyone involved. There is no sense of entitlement, nor is there an inability to move past another failure. The broken human spirit is one of the great creators of our species; few things in this life can match the skill, innovation, or persistence of a broken spirit with a will to survive and a hint of hope. Few things match the empathy as well; if you know what it's like to put forth your best effort and fall on your face, your generosity to others who try to meet their problems head on will warm hearts. Many of us have heard the success stories of professionals and their rather modest beginnings. Einstein was a terrible high school student, Michael Jordan was initially cut from his high school basketball team, and Abraham Lincoln ran for public office at least seven times before his presidency, without avail. Nevertheless, these people were some of the most notable men of their trades.
Failure, in a sense, is quite refreshing as a wake-up call. To return to the theme of harmonies, destruction births new creation. If you have a failure, that could be an opportunity for you to cut out a habit, a staff member, a product, a department, etc. in order for you and your passion to grow more than you believed possible. You may begin to lose vision of your true purpose and passion if you become blinded by success, fame, fortune, etc. Failures help you to prioritize yourself and see what's clouding your vision, so you can take the steps to remove it. Then think positively for the road ahead, following these new steps for your plan.
And steps they are indeed; any success sought in a single, giant leap will likely meet failure in the same way. Taking life a day at a time, the journey of a thousand miles, all of the cliched saying to that effect don't truly highlight the message of knowing when to stop. Cramming for an exam the night before after missing every class of the material tends to pan out pretty horribly for whoever takes this route. It's the ones who take the tedious road of attending class, writing notes, breaking down the lecture, etc., who tend to do well on the exams. In the same way, don't approach your passion as a gambler would; that's disrespectful to your own dreams. You and the ambitions that drive you are worth so much more than that. Take time and patience with them, learn why you have those ambitions and exactly what you plan to do with them, and reach those goals with step by step persistence. Failure is inevitable; defeat isn't. You'll only grow further when you take the time to develop from a failure. So don't fear frustrating losses; it's often a way to point you in the right direction.
This isn't as simple as “keep failing, you'll succeed eventually!” The world doesn't work that way. When you fail, you need to analyze why it happened, how to avoid it happening again, and what new methods to try. An unfortunate amount of people will cast their goals to the wayside, claiming that the failure happened because the goal was impossible. It is once you believe it is, but if you still believe in your goal, you shouldn't just change your goal because you failed. Change your action plan, because the steps you were taking could be flawed. But your goals and passion are a part of your identity, and to throw those away because you failed is to kill a part of yourself.
Just as important, don't listen to the naysayers who hound you unnecessarily for your failures; they often do that to hide their fears because they failed or saw others who failed. Talk and connect with the people who are already doing the things that you aspire to do, and learn as much as you can about it. Knowledge is power here; the more you know about your particular niche, the more the professionals in that niche feel the need to reach out to help you, once you've reach out to them. Again, don't try for the big bluefish and miss the snappers. If you want to be a basketball player, trying to immediately reach out for Lebron James might not get you anywhere, but playing ball in school, reaching out to travel team coaches, and keeping a correspondence with local sports newscasters or the like can get you the edge that you need. Often times, it's not what you know or who you know, but who knows YOU that will give you the advantage, so networking is important. Otherwise, you might fail and misinterpret the meaning of your failure as “I'm not good enough” or “that goal is impossible.”
Ten Things to Ask Yourself After a Failure
Did I take my goal seriously enough?
Did I do at least one thing to progress me to that goal everyday?
Did I contact everyone who could possibly help me reach that goal?
Did I try to move too fast or skip steps for the time being?
Should I develop the basics before trying more advanced methods?
Did I become discouraged? Why?
Did my priorities change? How should I re-prioritize?
Do I know enough about my goal? What do I need to learn?
Have I made success in other areas of my goal? What lessons can I use from those?
DID I GIVE UP?
Remember, defeat is inevitable for the one who accepts it as a reality. Don't accept defeat as if it were a fact of life. You already know that you have what it takes to get where you want to be.
And even if you have to taste asphalt a couple times on your way up, believe in yourself and you'll reach the great heights you've always dreamed of.