Why failure leads to freedom

My good fortune came from being rejected

My biggest success arose from failure. I had a book on copywriting published, and was wondering what to do next. I noticed a writer’s magazine was selling courses, so I wrote and offered them a course on copywriting.

I got a one-line reply saying they already had such a course. I reckon they confused copywriting (writing to persuade) with copy editing (improving an existing text).

So I created the course myself, and advertised it in their magazine. Much to my surprise, people started to buy it. I will be eternally grateful for that magazine’s rejection, because my life would have been different – and worse – if they’d said yes.

It just goes to show that failure doesn’t matter. Failure can be a good thing. Each failure takes you one step closer to success.

And every successful person has experienced epic failures. Many musicians, actors and singers have quoted the line: ‘I’m a 40 years overnight success.” Tobias Lutke, founder of Shopify, which has revenues of £3bn, said: It took about 10 years’ time for Shopify to be an overnight success.

Talking about her life before Harry Potter, author J K Rowling said: “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”


The dip

Many people give up just before they succeed, according to Seth Godin. He calls it ‘The Dip’ – the period after you’ve done all the hard work, when nothing seems to work, and you abandon the project. That’s not surprising. Human beings are enterprising, and if one thing doesn’t work, we’ll try something different.

But the Dip might be a Cul de Sac, as Godin says, a dead end. And how do you tell the difference? You need to give it long enough. I tell my learners to expect 1,000 days of hunger, by which I mean you can’t judge success in self-employment before three years are up.

I also see failure as getting one step closer to success. Clayton Christensen, an innovation expert at Harvard says 30,000 new products are launched every year and 95% of them fail. But if we take 10% as a more realistic goal, I have to come up with 10 ideas for one of them to succeed.



Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.