New York City, NY

Anyone Can Stumble

Bill Abbate

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Everyone has heard the lyrics to the old Sinatra song, New York, New York - "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." There is a reason so many have made it in New York, but it may not be what you think.

We become who we are in life not only by what we accomplish but by how we fail and recover. Failure and recovery precede success and achievement, defining who we are. Another way to say this is who we are is built on the failures we face and overcome, followed by the successes we achieve.

Before we become successful at anything, we will pass through some form of failure. As stated in a recent article in Scientific American, failure is an “Essential Prerequisite for Success.” The key to succeeding after failing is in learning from it. If you do not learn from it, you may be doomed to repeat it.

Building success on failure

We first experience failure and success as an infant. Most infants learn to crawl at around six months. Failure is mostly unnoticed at this stage. In a few more months, the child will begin trying to walk.

The average age of a child walking independently is around one year old in the United States. But to walk independently requires overcoming failure. Once they overcome these early failures, they will face many other failures as they mature.

Isn’t all of life like that? We must all face failure if we are to mature, whether it is as a small child, a teen, an adult, a parent, a businessman, or life in general. We cannot be afraid of failure and must learn from it; otherwise, we stop growing. As an American business magnate once said:

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford (1863–1947)

It is well established as many people age, they become more risk-averse. This can lead to a sad state of affairs as it limits their ability to grow. Too many adults become so risk-averse they begin to atrophy over time. We are not talking about jumping out of airplanes here. These are the more common risks that require learning for growth — such as relationships, technology, and general knowledge. Embracing little things like technology can be good for an old soul!

Building on failure has long been recognized in the world, dating back to the dawn of man. One of the best statements I have read dates back 500 years, recorded by a well-known Chinese statesman, general, and philosopher:

“The sages do not consider that making no mistakes is a blessing. They believe, rather, that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and continually to make a new man of himself.” Wang Yang-Ming (1472–1529)

It is through failing, learning, and succeeding that we grow and renew ourselves.

Final thoughts

Embrace failure as a teacher. When you learn from failure, you advance in life. As one of my favorite people in history once said:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

Churchill certainly recognized learning from failure was a prerequisite to success. If one did not learn, they would certainly not have the courage to continue for long, would they!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill (1874–1965)

Do not fear failing. Be a person of courage, learn from and push through failures. Never give up or give in, and in the end, you will be a winner. I leave you with the wise words of a modern author, businessman, and entrepreneur:

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” Robert T. Kiyosaki (1947-present)

If you are a New Yorker who is not afraid to fail, you may well make it there if you'll make it anywhere!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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