Why is failure important?

Have you ever failed at something? I have, oh let me count the ways: I failed when I tried to make my first reality TV show, first game, book, leadership course, coaching program…and many more. The entrepreneur reality TV show is a great example and a funny story. Of course it wasn’t very funny in the early days.

The bottom line is this: don’t quit.

Flash waaay back in time to 2003 when Google was just a spud, before Facebook, and years before iPhones entered the scene. I had never done anything like this in my life having just finished changing careers from consulting to being an entrepreneur.

I was a new entrepreneur making a television show about entrepreneurs. No experience in film, story boarding, editing, hosting, graphics. None. Zip. Nada. Discovery Channel heard about it and decided to film the ‘making of’ the show (called Brainwave). As this was my first venture at film making, I decided to film it as well! Here we were, fifty people traipsing around Sentosa Island conducting entrepreneurial challenges to demonstrate courage, ingenuity, determination, and team building as we tripped over each other with a slew of cameras…filming cameras …filming cameras!

The first three months was a monumental crash and burn. We couldn’t get a writer, so I said I would write it. We couldn’t get a host, so I reluctantly said I would host it. We spent fifty percent of our budget, filmed weeks of materials, and it was 98 percent trash. I wrote the script 5, 10, 15 times, then tried again. After 25 times I was getting worried. After 35 times I needed a very stiff drink. Finally after 50 times…fifty times…I threw it away in total frustration.  All I could do was surrender to the film Gods and let it go.

I went on a vacation to Bali (I was living in Singapore at the time). Then something amazing happened. As I was laying on the beach listening to the ocean with not a care in the world somewhere in Margaritaville, the AHA struck me! I leapt off the beach, ran to the hotel, and started scribbling as fast as I could. Six months later the show hit #1 in it’s time slot and #1 on the channel. You can see the show reel here.

I learned a valuable lesson about failure, a few actually. First, as Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” I also learned that failure is not being unsuccessful; failure is quitting after an unsuccessful attempt. If I quit after 50 attempts, then I would have failed. But I didn’t. Failure is a step on the path to greatness, teaching us resilience. Don’t quit!

The list of famous and successful individuals who have failed miserably is long and shocking, or is it? Watch the video. Abraham Lincoln was defeated in 8 elections before becoming president. The Beatles were told they had no future in the entertainment business. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected 27 times. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he started (Apple). The list goes on.

If you’re about to quit, please watch the video and you will be both surprised by the famous failures and inspired to press on. It seems the path to greatness is paved from the road of failures.

Failure teaches us determination, persistence, and resilience–one of the most important qualities to survive and thrive. 

Failure is another universal law of life. If you want to amount to anything, you will fail! Evaluate what you did wrong and figure out how to get it right. In my experience surrendering control, and how to, is essential. Never surrender the what or why.

No one ever got it right the first time, not even Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or Thomas Edison. In fact, if you study the greatest inventors and most successful entrepreneurs–those people Kennedy referred to in his quote about achieving great feats–you will discover that these geniuses don’t fit in a box; they cannot be labeled; they reject the box so strongly that they are ostracized and ridiculed and doomed to fail!!

Until they succeed–until they get it right.

What kept them going? Passion.

Do you have passion? Do you care enough about what you believe in to never surrender, never quit?

If you need some inspiration, watch the 8 most motivating minutes of your life video.

In reality, there is no such thing as failure, unless you quit.


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