A Lesson in Failure

Failure isn’t fatal. Success is never final. It is the courage to continue that counts. I hear this quote or variations of it all the time.


A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation by a 19-year-old, whose goal is to cure aging. Simple, right? Laura Deming’s resume is incredibly impressive for anyone, let alone a teenager, but her outlook on life is mature beyond her years.

She’s had countless successes before most of us will even graduate college, but what struck me as most interesting about her was that she attributed all of her success to her one big glaring failure.

Her first attempt to start a business and open her own fund for her research was, as she put it, “a miserable failure.” But she looked at this failure not as an ending, but a beginning.

She chalked it up to a learning experience and moved on. She hasn’t found the cure to aging yet, but I have no doubt that with her tenacity, she will achieve her dream. You can learn more about Laura and watch her TED Talk here.

I came out of this presentation thinking. — holy shit, I’ve never really failed at anything! And while this might sound incredibly narcissistic, I started to believe that I needed a really big failure in order to succeed in life.

Then, recently I visited the Thomas Edison National Park – I know dorky, right? – But while there, I learned an important lesson about failure, success and myself.

Most people know that Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, but did you know it took him nearly 1,000 times to get it right?

I don’t know about you, but I doubt I wouldn’t have made it past the first five tries. But Edison said, he didn’t fail 1,000 times he simply learned 999 ways NOT to make a light bulb and he claimed to be stronger and smarter because of it.


Without even realizing it, I’ve been living life like Thomas Edison. It’s not that I haven’t had failures in my life, it’s just that I’ve never considered them losses.

I realized that with every failure, you have two choices

1. Let it go and move on to something new

If what you’ve failed at isn’t a passion or a dream or yours, let it go!

I suck at sports — and while I could have sought out tennis lessons or fought through an injury to become a track star in high school– those things just weren’t important enough to me to put in the time and energy.

2. Get back on the horse and try again

When it comes to things I care about, I am determined to succeed — and you should be too! Goals aren’t supposed to be easy, it is your passion that will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

After putting on a considerable amount of weight in college, I enrolled in Weight Watchers, dropped 20 pounds and so far (fingers crossed!) I’ve kept it off. I am motivated to look and feel good.

If you are passionate and care enough about something, you cannot fail. If you don’t get something right the first time, try again, try a different approach, ask someone who’s successful at “said thing” for tips and advice.


So what I realized was, I have failed, but never at things that mattered to me, because when it comes to my passions I refuse to accept a loss. I truly believe that if you allow yourself to fail, you didn’t believe in your goal in the first place.

So next time something doesn’t go your way, take a step back and think about whether or not its worth pursuing.

If not – don’t sweat it, everyone has different dreams.

But if it is — give ‘em hell and don’t stop ‘til you get it right.

NOTE: I felt like I couldn’t post this without giving credit to “A Life Less Bullshit.” I’ve been working on this post about the idea of failure for a while, but I couldn’t seem to get to a conclusion and I kept writing in circles. One of the reasons I love reading other blogs is it helps me to process my own thoughts. I want to thank Nicole, for her recent post The #1 Secret to Success, which inspired me and led me to the conclusion above. Thanks, Nicole!