There Are No Failures, Only Opportunities – 5 Ways Successful People See the World

Failure does not exist, but there are a lot of things we perceive as failure. I am going to share how I’ve started to reframe failures in my life, to see them as opportunities. 

I felt for years that I was failing, again and again. I used to refer to myself as being stuck in a ‘failure cycle’. A job that didn’t work out (somehow I overlook that taking that job doubled my salary overnight) haunted me. I kept remembering getting one answer wrong on a test when I was ten (always forgetting the 99 I got correct). I couldn’t see it was even possible to reframe failures.

There are also things that I’ve pressed on with, despite them not being successful at first. Even now, my Medium blog claps, my podcast downloads, and my Instagram followers are not as high as I would like. If I gave up, however, those claps, downloads, and followers would never be as high as I desire. 

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Edison

What if Edison had stopped at attempt 10,000? We never know when we are just around the corner from succeeding. How many people have given up on something when they were merely a few hours away from a breakthrough?

It’s easy for me to suggest we keep going, even when we feel we’re in failure territory, but I believe that it’s about mindset. If, like Edison, I can see fails as learning points I will feel encouraged to keep trying.

Oprah was fired from her first television job for being too emotionally involved. Since then, she has built her whole career on sharing emotional stories. If she had believed her emotional investment was unacceptable, she’d not have become the woman she is. The apparent failure in her career – being fired – was what propelled her to greater things.

We’ve all heard about authors who’ve struggled to become published and go on to become successful. JK Rowling and Dr. Seuss were rejected many times before a publisher accepted them. 

I believe part of why I was so quick to judge my failures was that I saw everyone else as ‘overnight successes.’ We see the success, but not everything that went on before that. We don’t see the tears and the heartache, we focus on where those people are today. Just like Edison, there are always failures behind the greatest successes.

We all have a yesterday, and for most of us, it will be messier than where we are today. 

Manifestation allows us to create what we want through visualisation, belief, and action. The Law of Attraction does not dictate immediate success. It allows us to get whatever we want at the most appropriate time for us. We may need to learn other life lessons before we’re able to bring about something we desire. It’s hard to accept, but the universe knows better than we do about the best timing for everything. 

  • Thomas Edison wanted the success of creating the lightbulb (or at least bettering Swan’s version).
  • Oprah Winfrey wanted the success of a great TV career.
  • JK Rowling wanted the success of a bestselling book. 

They wanted the success so much and believed so hard that it would come eventually, that they kept going. The obstacles in their path were frustrating in the moment, I’m sure, but they found ways around them. 

There are five things I’ve developed in myself, which I believe are the key traits of successful people. 


Self-Belief

Wanting success in life is not enough, we must believe that it’s possible for us. We must not look at others who have what we want and think we can’t achieve the same.

The harder we trust in our own capabilities, the more likely we are to become successful. For example, I know that my podcast will become more popular because I believe that I’m a damned good speaker. 

Every person who has had success believed in themselves. They trusted that they were the right person to bring about whatever it was they wanted. 


Determination

If we falter at the first obstacle, we’re unlikely to be successful over the long term. In fact, the more obstacles we overcome, the stronger we become. I am a resilient human being due to a lot of the problems and apparent failures I’ve faced over my life.

We must be determined if we wish to succeed. When I hesitate at obstacles, I ask myself whether I really want what I believe I do. If I want it, the obstacles are simply a part of the journey and I need to accept them as such.


Dedication to Others

Edison’s lightbulb changed the world. Although a rudimentary lightbulb design already existed, he set out to better it. Edison knew he could invent something incredible: he dedicated himself to helping people. 

If Edison was designing something with less impact, would he have kept going for 10,000 attempts? There was obviously some professional rivalry, given he was bettering Swan’s earlier design. I feel competition alone would not have been enough for him to persevere if he didn’t believe his version would be groundbreaking.

There had been talk shows before ‘Oprah’, but her show was innovative in its emotional emphasis. Oprah tackled controversial issues, believing it was important for guests to have a voice. She continues to be dedicated to sharing the stories of others. 

When you think about growing and being empowered yourself, it is what you’ve been able to do for other people that leaves you the fullest.

Oprah Winfrey


Normalising Failures

One of the failures in my own life that I have used to berate myself is the class of my degree. I went to Oxford and studied Classics (Literae Humaniores), and I only got a 2.ii classification (a 2.7-3.0 GPA in the US). At such a highfalutin and venerable institution, it felt like the ultimate failure.

It took a long time for me to see many people do less well at university than they want, or don’t complete the degree at all. 

Far from it stymying Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Ralph Lauren, they all found mega-success! They went on to far greater things than academia could have offered them. 

Again we see that the apparent failures have propelled people on their journey. It is all about how we view being unsuccessful. If we wallow in it, we will struggle, yet these entrepreneurs show how to turn around failure. 


Childlike Levels of Repetition

Think about children, and how they learn – it’s almost entirely through failures. They’re learning to walk, they fall over, pick themselves up and try again. They’re trying to catch a ball, they drop it, they pick it up and repeat. They accept failure as part of the learning process. 

To be successful, we need to learn to apply this determination and childish curiosity.

James Dyson made 5,126 versions of his vacuum cleaner before he discovered one that worked. He was not put off after all those versions, simply using them means towards the 5,127th version. He became increasingly curious and determined over the many versions that he created. It is the ability to learn from failure and see it as part of the process that allows inventors to keep going. 

Failure is interesting – it’s part of making progress. You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure.

James Dyson

I’m not saying that people do not get frustrated by the number of attempts they need to make at things. Children get very upset and angry when they can’t achieve something, but after a tantrum, they’re back to try again.

It’s normal to be emotional when we’re not successful, but the prosperous persevere.


Conclusion

I’ve started to apply all five of these things to my life. My rate of success hasn’t necessarily increased, but I now see failures as a part of the path to success. Failures have become an impetus to keep going, rather than the thing that ends the journey.

It would be healthier for our wellbeing to reframe failures as learning opportunities. They are normal parts of the life journey. Let’s be more open to seeing the beauty in failure. 

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