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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Failure is part of success

We tend to see failure as the opposite of success. But this simplistic way of viewing failure hides some very complex issues. It is more accurate and realistic to think of failure as part of success. A one hundred per cent success rate in any significant project is relatively rare. Most of the time, success encompasses failure. Sometimes, it is failing at one thing that enables us to succeed at something else – for example, by seeing where we have been going wrong, what assumptions we have been making that need to change. Furthermore, fear of failure can be a major obstacle to innovation, to a balanced approach to risk and to learning. And, let’s be clear about it, we fail on a regular basis. Every time we do a typo, we ‘failed’ to get it right first time; every time we are a minute late for a meeting, we ‘failed’ to get there on time; and so on. Failure is not just the opposite of success, so we need to make sure that we do not allow a simplistic understanding of failure to stand as an obstacle to success.

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