The Gift of Failure: Failure Can Be Positive

Written by NRPC Editorial

April 19, 2024

The Gift of Failure

Q: What is one of the major factors that separates highly successful people from less-successful people?

A: How they view and deal with setbacks, mistakes, and failures.

Failure. Something we dread, yet something we will all encounter in life. Life is not a success-only journey, we can’t hide from failure, but we can learn how to learn from it.

Failure is a gift. It doesn’t typically arrive in an attractive box wrapped with a ribbon, though how it presents is simply the surface appearance. Failure is more like the cover of a book. When you look past the cover, you see inside the learning opportunities it offers.

The most successful people have failed, and probably failed many times. The successful person understands failure and knows how to use it to its best advantage. Failure is a useful and probably essential part of being successful.


An interpretation of events

An event happens. You may label it as failure; other people may label it differently. You yourself may label it differently at a later stage. When you aim to achieve something, and achieve something you perceive as ‘less’, this can be interpreted as failure.


For there to be a feeling of failure, there will be a sense of loss. For example, loss of face, time, money, partner. If there is no sense of loss, it’s unlikely you’ll experience feelings of failure.

A tool

Failure is like a tool. Think of a hammer; in and of itself, it’s neutral. How you choose to use it determines the outcome. You could use it to create a beautiful building or use it to destroy. Similarly with failure, you can choose to use it to create a positive outcome or a less favourable one.

An opportunity

When failure occurs, you are simply being given a message that you need to learn, grow, and develop in order to carry on the path you have chosen.


In simple terms, there are two main reasons:

Lack of knowledge or understanding

  • …of how life works. If aiming for success, experiencing failure will be part of the process. Successful people understand this, and see failure as a temporary, not permanent situation, as a part of the journey, not the destination.
  • … of how to do your job or business or activity. What skills or knowledge do you need to acquire?
  • If the basic premise you are working from is wrong for you, then failure is more likely to occur.
  • Forgetting that there are choices. It can be easy to become entrenched in the situation, seeing everyone doing it one way or seeing it from one point of view. You may not be aware of other ways to do things.
  • Developing poor habits that lead one step at a time away from true north. Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.” Jim Rohn



Attitude is probably the single biggest factor in dealing with the concept of failure. People who are successful don’t experience fewer failures than less-successful people, they probably experience more. The major difference can be attributed to a difference in attitude. Successful people acquire the knowledge and understanding to deal with failure. They don’t fear it, their main driver isn’t failure-avoidance, and they know they have to take some risks.

In addition, they avoid:

  • Inaction. ‘You can’t steer a stationary car’. If you do nothing, it’s hard for others to help you, and it becomes difficult for you to reach where you want to go. Even if you take action in the wrong direction, there is an impetus that can be used to point you in the right direction.
  • Hanging on. This is not the same as giving up, rather having the courage to stop what you are doing and move on when you know it’s the wrong path.
  • Unwillingness to pay the price. There is a price to pay for everything. Successful people realise that to achieve their goals there will be a price and they will have to pay it.
  • Limiting beliefs. If you believe you can’t, you are unlikely to succeed. If you believe you can, you are likely to succeed.
  • Playing the victim role and finding something to blame other than yourself. It’s difficult to get out of the victim role once you are there, and it serves no useful purpose. While external factors may be present, choosing the most helpful attitude and approach is important.
  • Giving up. To achieve that you want, you’ll need resilience, the ‘bounce-back factor’. Failure happens. Don’t give up, lick your wounds, and bounce back.
  • Living in the past. Successful people don’t focus on the past and on what went wrong, they focus on sorting out the present, and looking to the future and where they want to be.



Failure is a great opportunity to learn what you need to know, to grow, develop, and succeed. It’s also an opportunity to learn that you can survive failure, come out of it stronger, achieve a better outcome, and be less fearful of the next time.

Failure is a great opportunity for you to teach. Your experience can help those who are travelling the same route you have taken.

Dealing with failure well can open doors. Some enlightened employers seek out those who have failed, as they realise the benefits, knowledge, and wisdom that overcoming failure can bring.

The way people deal with things that go wrong is an indicator of how they handle change.



You will not go through the rest of your life without a failure, mistake, or setback. How to deal with it?

  • Understand that you may go through the following stages: Shock – Fear – Anger / Blame – Shame – Despair. For example, if you were sacked from your job, your first reaction may be shock “How did this happen?”  Then fear “How am I going to pay the bills?” Then anger and blame “It wasn’t my fault; the manager didn’t give me any support.” Then shame “How am I going to tell my family?” Then despair “If I can’t keep this job, am I good enough to keep any job?”

All of these are useful, healing stages to go through … if they are temporary and you don’t get caught up in any of them.

  • ‘Be still and let the mist clear’. When you are in a state of shock do not make any major changes or decisions as they are unlikely to be made from a grounded state of mind.
  • Avoid labelling the experience as bad or negative. You will probably see it differently at a later stage. It may become your most beneficial learning experience.
  • Compartmentalise the issue and simply focus on the issue at hand. If you were sacked from your job, then focus on that. There is a temptation when you have a major setback to feel that your whole life is wrong.
  • Spend time sorting out the issues that arose from the ‘failure’, and focus on something else, as great as, or greater than the issues you are dealing with so that you have something positive to work towards.
  • Attend to your health. You will need this to sort out the current issues and to be able to move forward.
  • Get help. Your thinking processes and subsequent actions may have caused the issue to happen. Obtain a different viewpoint and advice from someone else. “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”, Einstein.


Life is not a success-only journey. You will experience failures, mistakes, and setbacks. You can’t hide from them, but you can learn how to learn from them. Henry Ford was a learner when he said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.

Are you a learner?

Kim Chamberlain

Kim works in the field of personal and spiritual development, helping people take steps forward in their life. She is the author of a range of books and e-books, runs a Facebook development group, offers webinars, meditations, podcasts, and spiritual support. Her monthly newsletters provide deep wisdom on personal growth topics.

Kim Chamberlain MA Hons, Dip CG, Dip FJ, ATM, APS
Spiritual & Personal Development
Mob +64 22 0812586


Published : Apr 19, 2024