Why Failure is a Myth

Failure is a myth


I spent most of my life being scared of failure – being scared of bankruptcy, of being broke and of making bad relationship choices. Whenever I encountered what I thought was failure I’d get depression and immediately contemplate ways to end my life.

I’d look in the mirror and see only one thing: a failure.

I saw a failed entrepreneur, a blocked writer and a financial wreck. I deeply believed this and would try to cover it up by trying to appear intelligent and totally put together. Deep down I could feel was shame.

My whole existence was about how to hide my perceived failures which negatively impacted my finances and stopped me from seeking help.

So, I guess, you could say I’ve spent a few years getting acquainted with failure.


1. Failure is a matter of perception


Life is experiential and is meant to be approached as a moment to moment journey. Failure is a human concept.

We’re first taught about failure at school. When we grade kids, we teach them there’s such a thing as failure. But is it really failure is we fail at Math, but pass at relationship management?

According to the school system: it is!

This is only because there’s no way to grade relationship management even though the research shows that relationship management is emotional intelligence and is more important to career success than an A at Math.

As adults we look at our neighbors and we think, wow my neighbor did the exact same thing as me and is 30 years old and has a house, car and boat and this success guru says for me to be successful I should have a car, house, boat and jet, but I only have a car, so I must be failing.

The minute we start comparing our experiences to someone else’s experience or to what the experts say our experience should be, we start to encounter failure.

Without this comparison, your experience is just an experience and you wouldn’t know any better.


2. What we call failure is actually learning


When I was busy crying and getting depressed about being a failure, something interesting was happening in my life: I was getting a practical lesson about the link between emotions, thoughts and behaviour.

Most importantly I was learning about getting rejected by bloggers and magazines as a writer and struggling to generate revenue as an entrepreneur.

Being rejected as a writer taught me persistence and forced me to learn different writing techniques and styles (I’m a poet and creative writer).

It also forced me to find different writing avenues by writing a non-fiction book.  Something I honestly never thought I was capable of doing.

On the other hand, failing as an entrepreneur taught me what it is like to have NO money. It taught me about self-hatred, low self-esteem, fear and the importance of a business model. These lessons helped me explore new ways of thinking about abundance and revenue generation.


Failure is a myth

3. Failure is part of innovation 


In life we know 3 things:

1. We know what we know

2. We know what we don’t know

3. We don’t know what we don’t know

The first 2 things we’ll most likely figure out as we go through life, but the things that are most critical to our success are the things we don’t know we don’t know, incidentally these are the things that also lead to failure.

When we start to understand a little bit of what we didn’t know we didn’t know, we can start to innovate.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers argues that to become a master, you have to spend 10,000 hours practising something and from there greatness emerges.

When we keep trying and not getting the result we want, we start to master certain things during the process and start to become experts. When we get to that expert phase we can start to change things and innovate.


Change the way you see failure


Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

When we change the way we see failure, we change the way we view success which empowers us to keep taking action until we get the result we want.

Please share your thoughts on failure in the comment section below.

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  1. This article has brought to my attention what I have’nt been aware of.
    I procastinate a lot because I wait for the right time but deep down I feafear that I am going to fail. But this article does give some encouragement to persue your goal.

  2. Vangile

    Thanks Makhi. Fear of failure is one of the major reasons why we procrastinate in our lives.

  3. WOW you hit the nail on it’s head! I was just speak about you to my colleague when this newsletter came though. Every time I seem to get a mail from you, it is if you know exactly what I’m going through and I’m able to relate to your emails. I’ve been following your newsletter and read the book. It has helped me see things in a different light. Failure is something I need to overcome and it’s not the easiest thing to do. My fear of failure has lead me to procrastinate but I actually need to look at what I have learned from it, have I found the ” 10 000 other ways” of doing things. Yes its so true that we look at our friends and think that we have failed because we don’t have what they have. But we cannot base of experiences on what they have. This is very encouraging email and I would like to say thank you for always sending us relevant idea to better ourselves.

    • Vangile

      Hi Jade,

      Thank you so much for your response. The emails I receive have really inspired me to keep writing and sharing my insights. Amazing things happen when you change the way you see failure and react to it because we can change the way we approach problems or situations.

  4. For me, failure is three things…. 1. Never trying 2. Never learning the lesson from mistakes. and 3. Not trying again.

    • Vangile

      I totally agree with you Stefanie. Failure is really about perception – I have found that trying over and over is what leads to new breakthroughs; its the things I that I tried at over and over again that I’ve come to be most successful in because I was able to innovate and become at expert at.


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