When failure is our best gift

All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.

– Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet In Heaven

I remember the morning I went to Kirimara High School (Kenya) to check for the results of  my Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE). I was excited as I took a public bus to the school, I was very sure that I had passed the exam. I had worked very hard and was very hopeful that I was joining University of Nairobi to undertake a Bachelor of Economics. As the first born of 9 siblings and 6 half sisters and brothers there was always lots at stake, and my  mother was always clear – work hard and succeed. Those two elements were always interrelated. You work hard, give it your 100%, and you will succeed. All my life, that formula worked. I studied, got good grades, did well on the Kenya Certificate of Education, got into a Provincial High School.  I did everything “right” anytime  I wanted something and I assumed that I will always get what I wanted with ease. 

I still remember the months of hysteria leading up to the  Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE). Like all of my classmates, I did all the homework assignments, made flash cards, and studied. The thought that I can spend two years of my life and fall short by failing the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE) never occurred to me. My stomach sank as I read the result. The message sank in – you failed. You are a failure. How would I explain to my mother that her oldest son is a failure? I would be rendering meaningless everything she fought for, everything she sacrificed in a single stroke – by failing the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE).

So, that was my life. I went from being a bright star student to a failure. It took away my da bragging right to be able to announce to her friends that her son was going to university. I hid from people for a month and when I showed up people from my village gossiped about me, those who came to visit our home were sarcastic. I went into a deep depression.I thought that my was done, I thought of running away to Nairobi because I had so much shame. Many of my friends who never attended school were very happy that I was finally joining them, to be a farmer. I felt that I had failed and I had no future. Then I got a job interview with a Swahili Christian Magazine as an Associate Editor. They gave the job on the spot. This was the miracle I had been waiting for, I felt blessed and my vison was renewed. I could dream again. I accepted the job, and the job paved my paths to go to Daystar University, and later I found a way to Canada for Graduate studies.

While it looked like failure had a grip in me, God had better plans for me. I am very thankful that faluire had final say in my life. I want to tell others that it’s never an option to give up especially when it’s about reaching your dreams. If you want to become an engineer, go for it. There’s a saying, “Some people succeed because they are destined, but most because they are determined.”

Our failures can become some of our best teachers if we pay attention to and learn from them. They can give us the courage to confront our own and others’ imperfections and to accept failure as inevitable in today’s complex work organizations. Most successful people acknowledge they’ve learned more from their failures than their successes. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, said in a Harvard commencement address, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” Ms. Rowling knows about failure: She was a single, unemployed mother who received 12 rejections before a publisher accepted her first Harry Potter book.

Some people fear failure so much that they never put themselves in situations in which they could fail. But this sets a low ceiling on their prospects for professional success. Fear of failure is one of the strongest forces keeping people below their potential. In the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, author Timothy Ferriss advises readers to ask themselves what would happen if they chased their dreams and fell flat on their faces. He suggests the recovery time would be far shorter than we think.Wise professionals recognize that if you don’t take risks, you lose out on opportunities. 

Steve Jobs is a particularly strong example of using grit to thrive despite professional failure. He and his business partner started Apple in a garage when Jobs was only 20 years old. By the time Jobs was 30 years old, Apple had grown into a multi-billion-dollar company–and Jobs found himself kicked to the curb when his creative vision diverged from the rest of the board. 

In his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, he recalled how adrift he felt:

“What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating…I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me–I still loved what I did.”

How can we rethink failure?

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact failure has on my life. I have to believe that failure in itself does not define me, but it has molded me into the person I am today. Failure to me is the greatest lesson of all and is formed from every mistake, loss, and defeat. Hardships and struggles are when growth happens the most. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we come back from these mistakes that truly matters. Each time we are faced with a problem, we have a decision; we can stay stuck on it, be negative, and not allow ourselves to heal, or we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and rebuild from the ground up with a positive attitude.

Here below are some lessons that I find helpful to share with others regarding how to approach failure, these lessons are just guidelines on how to appreciate failure and make the best of it.

# 1.Failure deprives away the inessentials

Failure, as much as it hurts, is an important part of life. In fact, failure is necessary.In her commencement speech, Rowling said, “[When I failed] I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” 

Failure for me has been my greatest teacher; it’s nature’s chisel that chips away at all the excess, stripping down egos as it molds and shapes us through divine intentions. Without failure, we’d be less capable of compassion, empathy, kindness, and great achievement; we would be less likely to reach for the moon and the stars.

# 2. Resilience in the face of failure

Resilience is our ability to cope with unexpected circumstances, and can be thought of as emotional awareness. If we are resilient, we are then able to cope better with life’s ups and downs. Building resilience is something that we can all aim to be better at and the benefits for us will be profound and long-lasting.

Unfortunately, we can’t build resilience on success alone. It takes failure for us to build our inner strength and work out how to deal with failure. A life of unbroken success doesn’t test us; if we are untested, then we are unprepared for what might come. Failing in life helps to build resilience. The more we fail, the more resilient we become. In order to achieve great success, we must know resilience. Because, if we think that we’re going to succeed on the first try, or even the first few tries, then we’re sure to set ourselves up for a far more painful failure.

Failure makes success possible, but not because of the eventual possibility for lucrative exits. Rather, failure opens the dialogue to show that we don’t have to be perfect; in fact, we can’t be. We need to speak honestly and openly — to let ourselves be known, so that failure and mistakes are put in their proper context.

# 3. Failure builds you up.

Failure can tear you down. It can make you feel horrible about yourself and about life. It can also build you up in ways you never thought possible if you let it.

Failure allows you the opportunity to acknowledge and take responsibility for your mistakes. Take responsibility for the part you played in your failure. Stare your monetary losses in the face without cringing. Acknowledge what happened and why you failed.

Failure makes us more emphathetic. Those who try and fail understand something about human nature that others who do not share that experience seem to lack. It can teach us to be empathetic toward other people who have not been successful.

#4. Failure drives us to change

Without failure, where would we be today? The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Unlike Edison, many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity. When we do make missteps, we gloss over them, selectively editing out the miscalculations or mistakes in our life’s résumé. “Failure is not an option,” NASA flight controller Jerry C. Bostick reportedly stated during the mission to bring the damaged Apollo 13 back to Earth, and that phrase has been etched into the collective memory ever since. To many in our success-driven society, failure isn’t just considered a non-option—it’s deemed a deficiency, says Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. “Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list,” Schulz says. “It is our meta-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.”

Winston Churchill once stated, “Success is based on going from failure to failure without losing eagerness.” Failure is the most wonderful teacher if we are willing to learn from it. Success does not come easy. Everyone must face one hurdle after another. It’s the only way to reach success. The reason being is that success must be maintained. If you think that once you have the success you crave and it’s time to relax, you are sadly mistaken.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mangai says:

    A good in bad, sometime bad is also happening for good 😊


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