Monday Mornings with Madison


At first blush, this week’s essay seems to focus on what to do when you fail to succeed.  But let’s turn that on its head. Instead, I am suggesting that you need to fail in order to succeed… success achieved through failure. Indeed, history shows that truly great success is usually achieved only after either great failure or a great deal of failure, or both.

We mistakenly think that anyone who succeeds has had nothing but good luck all their life and that he or she had it easy.  By the time we hear about someone making it, the focus is on the success, not on the long hard struggle to get there.  The truth is, everyone has failed. Not only that, everyone has failed miserably.

Pioneers, innovators and phenoms alike have usually experienced immense disappointments throughout their existence. Consider the evidence.  Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest athletes to grace sports, once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 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. And that is why I succeeded.”   Thomas Alva Edison, who held the world record of 1093 patents for inventions, once said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Another case in point.  J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books – over 400 million sold and now the second richest woman in the UK - said that at her lowest point she was suicidal, not knowing how she was going to provide for her kids.  Failing is a part of life.  It’s hard to imagine that someone like Rowling on the brink of suicide.  Yet failure – and the feelings of despair that can accompany it – are all too common. We all fail, and guess what?  We will continue to fail because we absolutely need it to succeed.

Failing is trying. Without trying, we never have a shot at succeeding. The faster we deal with failure, the sooner we are ready for success. Each failure is a building block to success. Some people cannot deal with failure, so they never try anything. The result: nothing. Nothing can happen without action. Life is about action, and action means taking risks. 

In sales, those who succeed are typically the ones not afraid of rejection. In fact, anyone who has ever done sales knows that sales is all about rejection.  For some people, the risk of being rejected is so paralyzing they cannot approach a potential client.  But those who are successful at sales know that no risk equals no sales.  No sales equals no success.  Renowned sales coach Tom Hopkins said that rejections or failures are the rungs to the ladder of success. Here was his theory.  Say for example that each sale you made was worth $100, and you complete a sale about once every 10 tries. That means each failure is worth $10!  It’s a clever way to look at failure.  More importantly, he recognized there is value in failure. 

Failure also provides lessons. Each failure brings experience and knowledge that can help you succeed.  Thus, you should never fear failure.  In the game of life, nobody plays a perfect game. If you think that some people lead perfect flawless lives, the mistake is in your perception.   So, how do you achieve success through failure?

Step 1 - Accept that failure is part of life.  

Step 2 - Accept past failures. For some, past failures haunt and torment them. Get over it!  Know that this is not an isolated incident or something that only happened to you.  Everyone has faced failure. You are no different. At least you tried!

Step 3 - Accept that you will fail again in the future. Some things will work, and some won’t. Prepare yourself mentally for this. It’s realistic and logical.

However, accepting failure is not expecting failure! You should never expect to fail. Those who expect to fail realize their wishes very easily. You can be logical and accept that the possibility of failure exists, but you should also be confident in your chances to avoid failure and succeed. This is crucial!   The goal is to know that even if you fail, you will get over it and it won’t destroy you.  This is so empowering that simply having that frame of mind increases your chances of success even more.

The next time you are thinking of doing something, a new project or endeavor, just give it a try. The biggest hurdle that keeps people from succeeding is the fear of failure. It causes a sudden halt in progress, and no movement means no opportunity for success. So don’t be afraid to fail.  Accept it. Be ready for it. But expect to succeed, and in the end, you will.


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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