Written by Evi Idoghor, Creator of Letstalknationblog.com
It's 2021, and no one wants to begin their year having a conversation about failure, however, it is essential that we do. Failure is one of the things that most humans have in common, yet, it is one of the most feared and less-talked-about topics when it comes to one's journey to success. If there is anyone who understands the topic of failure is me.
Growing up in my little city, Port-Harcourt, failure was something that was detested in our household. If you failed in school, that was it for you; no television, no visitation rights, no playing, and the one that got to me every time was my father's grave silence towards the defaulter. That was how you discovered he was not happy with you.
But quite frankly this whole structured educational thing wasn't for me, so in order not to disappoint my parents, I hid most of my failures. Some African parents and guardians raised their kids with failure being something to be feared. If you failed a test, exam, or homework assignment, then you were going to get it hot from your parents.
This concept has led children to hide their results from parents, their personal failures, and whatever else they could keep from them, because of the fear of disappointing their family—I know I did this, a lot. There is this meme that makes its rounds on social media from time to time, it says—in an African home you are either a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or a disgrace to the family.
When children grow up with that mindset, they connect failure with something bad. So when they get their first job rejection or ideas thrown in the garbage, they equate that to who they are; failure becomes a person and not an event. Fear then slowly finds its way into such circumstances, with them not knowing how to move forward from that situation. If parents encouraged their kids, rather than scold them over a failed test or assignment, confidence will be built up over time, with children understanding that failure is a part of life.
When you begin to see failure as a part of the process, you become more open to it and embrace it. I think in African households, parents don’t want their kids to make the same mistakes they made, so they try everything within their power to shield them from it without knowing the great disservice they are doing to their children.
Why Failure is Essential
Failure builds resilience and redirects you to the path you are supposed to be on and that is how you come into "success," which in and of itself is relative. Success most times is found in the many nos you get, the number of times your business model fails, the number of people who don’t believe in you or your idea, and the scrapped papers that make it to your trash can before they make it to the boardroom.
When you find out multiple ways a particular process doesn’t work, then you become more insightful, or as Oprah puts it—you become armed with information, dispersing your knowledge to many people who might want to go down the path you already did.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, was denied admission into Harvard business school ten times and was dismissed from at least 30 different job opportunities. It would have been very easy for him to give up on life due to the failures he experienced, however, he went ahead to create one of the most prominent e-commerce organizations in the world.
“Failure is life just trying to move us in another direction.” —Oprah
Same with J.K Rowling; Harry Potter was rejected from 12 publishing houses, but all it took was one person to say yes to her story, and the rest is history. I’m sure a lot of people would have told her to give up on her dream; maybe you should change the story, maybe this is not what the audience is looking for at the moment, maybe you should try something totally different. (I get this a lot) but she understood that failure and rejection were a critical part of her success story. She went from being homeless to becoming the first billionaire in the writing industry.
Failure teaches you one of two things:
1. That the path you are taking isn’t the right part or
2. The path you are taking is the right path, but it’s also the road less traveled so even if people don’t understand it, keep going and one day, you will meet success along the way.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”—Thomas Edison
Hence, people shouldn’t be afraid of failure as failure is a part of life. The Bible is laced with stories of those who failed multiple times in countless situations, yet, they still came into their own and became who they were created to be. As such, failure should be embraced and not detested, as long as you learn from your mistakes and apply the knowledge you have garnered along the way.
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