The more I look back on my adult life and the lives of my friends, the more I notice that we all highlight our successes and hide our failures. This is not a bad thing at all, as I can’t see why anyone would want to remind others of a time when they failed miserably. And yet so much of the self-help industry is driven by the concept of accepting and even embracing failure. I once participated in a CBC Q&A with the hosts of Dragon’s Den, a show where business owners pitch an idea to a panel of millionaires in hopes of securing investments. I posted a question asking if they had even felt like their back was against the wall, the idea being I wanted to know if they ever felt like things were hopeless, like they were failing miserably and would never succeed. Arlene Dickinson, a marketing and communications CEO and venture capitalist, responded with an answer: “many times.”
On one hand I was surprised by her answer. It was interesting that someone so successful, confident, and powerful would have the same feelings of being up against an insurmountable obstacle. On the other hand, we are all human, and its important to realize that even the most successful people on this planet feel like failures sometimes. But I will say it again – We don’t celebrate failures.
Not everyone will remember Dolly the Sheep. In July of 1996 she was born as the first animal ever to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. Essentially the DNA of an adult sheep was transferred to an unfertilized developing embryo. Dolly survived and lived a decent life by sheep standards. It is considered a monumental success for science and it made Dolly a celebrity overnight. This is what is remembered from the experiment. What is forgotten is the 276 previous cloning attempts that failed en route to Dolly.
The famous flight of the Wright brothers’ plane in December of 1903 was the result of four years of work in aviation and aerodynamics. They were underfunded and spent many days crashing gliders, learning about the behavior of the air and developing their ideas for flight. Yet their first flight, only 852 meters, is still heralded as the historic beginning of human flight, and it would eventually take us the 384,000 Km to the Moon in less than a human lifespan. No one will remember their years of failures leading them to that monumental success.
The moral of these stories is that you don’t have to succeed all the time to become successful. No matter how many times you fail along the road, no one will care in the end. They will celebrate the great achievements you made, the final accomplishments. And most of the time, people won’t know how much you suffered to reach that final step. It is important to remember your failures and how they made you stronger. It is important to learn from mistakes. It is important to pick yourself up after you fall. But it makes it a lot easier to do all of these things when you know that your success will be your legacy, no matter how long it took you.