18 August 2011

The Importance of Failure

Behind every success are scores of failures and this might be the simplest reason that so many people never work to realize their potential.

Behind the world champion in major league baseball, the NBA, or the NFL are roughly 30 losers. You could say that the whole season was about determining the final victor but their victory would have been impossible without the dozens of losers.

As it turns out, life outside of sports is similar. Every successful business that actually creates jobs has emerged from a morass of dozens of businesses that flounder, hundreds of businesses started and failed, and thousands of businesses thought of but never executed. The same is true of inventions and ideas for social change.

Like an oak tree that drops thousands of acorns - only a few of which ever become trees - so is social progress. And I think this inevitability of failure is why so many people don't even try to accomplish more than what is prescribed by their roles as students, citizens, employees. Who wants to take on a game you'll probably lose?

Somehow we need to teach courage and intrinsic motivation, a love for what one is doing, that doesn't depend on success as judged by anyone else. Somehow we need to redefine failure as what happens when you don't try rather than what happens when you play in the regular season and never make it to the playoffs. Because the only way to have winners - the only way for all of society to move forward led by winners - is to have losers.

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