Who wants to chat about failure? Nobody, especially in the moment. An Olympic athlete who loses out on a medal because of a 0.3-second speed difference? Um, no. The entrepreneur whose business just went belly-up and took most of her life savings with it? Best not to bother her right now.
But here’s the thing: According to many of today’s most successful people, failure plants the seeds of eventual success. That means that failure is not the opposite of success, but a creator of it.
So you tanked on a project, or a race, or a test. You want to chat? No? Here are four reasons why you might want to change your mind.
Benefit #1: Failure Lets You Start Fresh
In a commencement address at Harvard, *Harry Potter *creator J.K. Rowling noted, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.”
The fact that failure is proof of a life worth living is the main reason it’s so freeing; you can make mistakes and still, like Rowling, who prior to becoming a pop-culture icon was a single mother on welfare, find the courage to start fresh.
If you’ve failed at something, draw a line under it and begin again from a new and better vantage point. As educator and musician Eloise Ristad writes in her book, A Soprano on Her Head, “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
Benefit #2: Failure Teaches You to Stop Wasting Your Time
When applying yourself to a task, it’s good to believe that persistence pays off. However, if you’re not even close to getting the results you need and other things are being negatively affected by your doggedness (health, relationships, bank balance), let failure be your reason to stop wasting time and place your energy into something more productive.
Steve Jobs publicly admitted that if he hadn’t dropped out of the required college classes he was hating and failing and started dropping into the ones that interested him, like calligraphy, he might never have developed such deep concerns about his computer products’ typography—and the stylish Apple Mac products as we know them today might never have happened.
Benefit #3: Failure Shows You What You Definitely Should Avoid in the Future
Just because you’re not good at everything doesn’t mean you’re not good at something. Failing in one area can mean you never have to think about working certain jobs, studying certain subjects, or practicing certain sports again. And amen to that!
The world is full of a billion different choices that can help you grow in new ways. Think of Thomas Edison, who said of his attempts to invent the lightbulb, “I haven’t failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that do not work.” Our gaffes don’t have to grind us to a halt. They can guide us in a new direction and away from activities that don’t serve us.
Benefit #4: Failure Motivates You
Almost winning can sometimes be more beneficial than winning. A study published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that losing out on a reward by a fraction can motivate a person to seek another, unrelated gain. For example, almost winning a race can increase a person’s effort to finish a work project—possibly more so than if the individual had actually won the race. In other words, knowing that we’ve come close to attaining one goal can make us more confident to reach out and grab another.
Ready to give Spartan a try? Here’s everything you need to know to find your race.