Not too long ago, I stumbled upon Michelle Obama’s last commencement speech as First Lady at the City College of New York. In this speech, she highlighted a lot of different social and political issues that our world is facing today. While her entire talk was exceptionally educational and inspirational, there was one part about adversity that stood out for me in particular, and it applies also to the many failures we experience in life. “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage,” said the First Lady. “Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”
What a great quote, right? The problem, of course, is that it’s easy in theory, but much more challenging in practice. But that doesn’t make it less true.
So today, I’m here to remind you — and myself — that failure in life is not only inevitable but also necessary. Here’s what we all need to remember when it comes to failing.
The Road to Success is Paved with Failures
Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.
– Sumner Redstone
Let’s start with an example.
You have a job and you work really hard at it. You’re always the first person to enter the office, you stay late, and you even work on the weekends. One day, your employer calls you in to his office and unexpectedly lays you off. At that precise moment, your heart sinks and your entire world comes crashing down. You automatically think you’re a failure. You think you’ll never be successful. Does that sound like you? Sadly, we’re all guilty of thinking this about ourselves at some point in our life.
When you do, remember these 4 simple truths to help you dust yourself off and soldier on.
Failing doesn’t make you worthless
In today’s world, we are constantly preoccupied with what others think about us. For some inexplicable reason, we want everyone to think we’re successful and thriving. We fear that if we fail, we’ll be perceived as a good-for-nothing. But everyone fails in life. I mean, look at Steve Jobs or Bill Gates; did they become successful overnight?
Failing opens up new doors
While we often think of failing as the end of the world, it’s actually a redirection. I know it’s hard to believe, but you have to understand that every time something doesn’t work out, it’s because something way better is on the way. All we have to do is work hard, be patient, and trust the process.
Failing makes you stronger
Although failure knocks you down on your feet, it also forces you to get back up and continue fighting. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and try things you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of trying. In other words, failure forces you to grow. So every time you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Failure is delay not defeat
Life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns, but I promise you it’s nothing against you. You see, everything in life has its own timing, and everyone on this planet has their own personal clock. So sometimes when you fail, it’s not because you didn’t try hard enough. It’s because the universe is telling you that it’s just not your time. What can you do in this case? Trust your timing. Trust the process. Just like Steve Jobs once said:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
– Steve Jobs
And the moral of the story? To quote Denzel Washington, “You will fail.” Not once, not twice, but many, many times. That’s what life is about. So stop being so hard on yourself. Focus on learning the lessons of each failure, and the next one will take you one step closer to success.