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The Importance of Failure

“Failure”. None of us like that word. What does it mean to you? Being inadequate? Not good enough? Can’t cut it? Were you ever called that name? “You’re a failure!”. None of this is good. No wonder we don’t like this word.

There is a great concept called “cognitive reframing”. No, it has nothing to do with thinking about remodeling your home. ;o) It is a way of taking another look at a belief we may have and deciding if maybe we have given it a negative value that is wrong or can be changed for the better.

For example, you may have a negative belief about your parents because they never showed love and support to you. So your belief may be “My parents were cold-hearted and uncaring people”.

Later on in life, you may have enough life experience to question that belief. You may think “You know, now that I think about it, my grandparents were that way too, so my parents were brought up in a family where love for the children was not expressed in words.” You may also think “My parents worked really hard to give me a good home and a good life, and that was their way of showing love.”

So then, your statement “My parents were cold-hearted and uncaring people” might be reframed to be “Although my parents never showed their love for me in words, they showed it in how they took care of me.” This kind of reframe can relieve an enormous amount of resentment and engender a feeling of being loved.

So, what does this have to do with “failure”?

Here’s the answer. What if you reframed the concept of “failure” into something else. What if every time something didn’t work out like you planned it, instead if calling it (or yourself) a “failure”, you said to yourself “OK, I know to avoid that way, but now let’s try this way”.

Let me tell you a short story.

Thomas Edison was a well-known inventor. When he announced that he was working on an improved version of the electric light bulb by using a new filament material, people were excited and hopeful. However, after months of effort, he had failed to produce the long-awaited bulb.

A young reporter, as the story goes, came to interview Edison. Having the brashness that the young often have, he asked Edison “How does it feel to have failed 1,000 times in your efforts to find a new filament?”

Edison, sharp and experienced in this game, swiftly replied “Young man, I have indeed not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 substances that will not work.” The rest, as is said, was history, and Edison did indeed find success.

What would have happened if he gave up after 10 or even 100 or 500 tries? Would you be reading this by candlelight? LOL! No, I don’t think so, but Edison’s invention lit millions of homes and streets and illuminated the lives of many.

Let me tell you one more short story. It’s about an old man. A broke old man. A man with an idea. He had an idea that was completely new and that he really believed in. So, at age 67, he began traveling around the country, living in the back of his car, and trying to get restaurant owners to pay him a franchise fee for using his recipe.

He was turned down by 1,008 restaurants before he got his first sale, and the rest is history, with more than 5,000 locations in the U.S.  You might know him as “Colonel Sanders” the creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken. How long do you think you would travel, living in your car at age 67, trying to sell an idea and being told “No. Not interested”? How many times would you hear that “No” before you gave up? 100? 500?  1,000?

Here are a few quotes about other people who you may know as great successes.

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded

Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, received a “C” on his college paper detailing his idea for a reliable overnight delivery service. His professor at Yale told him,”Well, Fred, the concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a “C” grade, your ideas also have to be possible.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff. And here’s a quote from Michael Jordan, called “The greatest basketball player of all time”:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot … and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”

And if you go to the Natural Healing section of this Website, you can read about how I have tried more than a half-dozen remedies for a heart rhythm issue I have, how they eventually failed and how I kept trying more. So the point is obviously to keep trying even when you fail. In fact, the real point is not to view a “failure” as a negative event. You try running, you hurt your ankle. You then either learn to run correctly or maybe wear different shoes as a result, or you decide to try cycling.

You try the “30-Day” diet and don’t lose weight (or gain it right back), so you try a different way to lose weight. Even simple things count. You make a smoothie and put in 2 cups of fruit and can’t finish it. So, try 1 cup tomorrow. You try chia seeds and don’t like them. OK, so try hemp seeds. Here’s how I see it, plain and simple. Tattoo this on the inside of your eyelid: “Failures are stepping stones on the path to success”.

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