Failure isn’t the opposite of success. Take Bill Gates, for example. It would be hard to argue that he hasn’t experienced success. But before launching Microsoft, Bill Gates dropped out of college and co-owned a failed business called Traf-O-Data.
A business that, according to Paul Allen, as reported in a Newsweek piece, “was a good idea with a flawed business model. It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research, and we had no idea how hard it would be to get capital commitments from municipalities. Between 1974 and 1980, Traf-O-Data totaled net losses of $3,494. We closed shop shortly thereafter.”
Bill Gates didn’t give up and according to an article in Inc.com, a lot of Bill Gates’ accomplishments came “from a simple lesson Bill Gates learned early on in his life” and this is that success isn’t binary.
Most of us assume that it is, which means everything that isn’t success must be failure. But the opposite of success isn’t failure. Or, it doesn’t have to be…
Most people measure success by whatever the equivalent is in their job of shooting an arrow and hitting the center of the target. There’s very little margin for error: you either hit it or you didn’t. If that’s the case, everything else is a failure. That belief is often what makes us afraid to try, because success is narrowly defined as only the best possible outcome.
In most cases, though, success is incremental. You try something and it works, you take a step forward. You try something else, and it doesn’t work, so you learn something and look for more things like the first attempt. Eventually, you get to wherever you were headed.
Even more important, it is basically impossible to know beforehand what constitutes the best possible outcome, and how things will evolve over time.
When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft there was no way of knowing that it would become what it is today: it could have been another Traf-O-Data. Also, Gates dropping out of college could have been seen as a failure, but it did actually help Bill Gates to reach his goals faster.
23 Inspiring Quotes about Overcoming Failure
- “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates
2. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield
3. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” –Theodore Roosevelt
4. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
5. “The phoenix must burn to emerge.” – Janet Fitch
6. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson
7. “Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” – Gena Showalter
8. “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
9. “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” Denis Waitley
10. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” Johnny Cash
11. “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? “- Vincent van Gogh
12. “No man ever achieved worth-while success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.” Napoleon Hill
13. “If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” – Richard Yates
14. “Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
15. “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard
16. “A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.” – Ambrose Bierce
17. “Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.” – Lily Tomlin
18. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius
19. “Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.” – Virgil Thomson
20. “Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.” – Mia Hamm
21. “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – Andre Gide
22. “Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese Proverb
23. “If you’re doing your best, you won’t have any time to worry about failure.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.