Do not give up, words on blackboard

I can’t stand it when I’m watching a movie or a TV show, and the antagonist will yell at one of their “teammates,” and brand him/her as a FAILURE.  The term, “to fail,” has become such a generic phrase in the English language, that I believe it’s lost it’s true meaning.  How do you judge failure?  Is it the idea that someone didn’t succeed?  Perhaps it’s the notion that nothing was even attempted?  Dictionary.com defines it as, “an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful.”

My definition is a little different.  To me, a failure is the process of giving maximum effort for something, and not getting the desired result.  Failure is a Badge of Honor.  It means that you attempted something, and did all the things that you felt were necessary for success, but weren’t able to achieve what you wanted to achieve.  So let’s break down was that actually means:
a)  You tried
b)  You did the things that you felt, or that you were told were necessary
c)  You learned what doesn’t work
d)  You discovered what might work

Failure is by no means something that should be construed as negative.  Thomas Edison was famously quoted while trying to invent the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Do we reflect on Edison and dwell on all the failed attempts, or do we now bask in the glow of the attempt that ended in success?  Would Edison or anyone ever created anything of value if they’d quit after the first try?

So what is it that so many of these people are referring to, if it’s not, “Failure?”  Generally, it’s a lack of trying.  Not seeing your goals through to the end.  There is no lack of people out there that have set goals, started the process, and then given up when things got tough or complicated.  The world is teeming with people that will point the finger at everyone but the person in the mirror, and blame their lack of success on obstacles that got in their way.  Is this really the same as someone that’s given it 100% and Failed?

The greatest success is nearly always built on the back of monumental failure.  Whether you’re an inventor, a salesperson, a teacher, a parent, or no matter what you do, understand that although we can learn from the successes of others, we’ll never learn more than when we try and fail.  That’s the beauty of the human spirit.  The ability to fail greatly, and get up and try again.
Arguably, our greatest President of all time was Abraham Lincoln. Growing up in a log cabin, what was the path that led him to the Presidency, freeing the slaves, re-uniting the north and south, and moving the nation into what she is today?  Here’s what the nearly 3 decades leading up to his Presidency looked like for Honest Abe:

YEAR
1832  Lost job – Defeated for state legislature – Elected company captain of Illinois militia in Black Hawk War
1833  Failed in business – Appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois – Appointed deputy surveyor of Sangamon County
1834  Elected to Illinois state legislature
1835  Sweetheart died
1836Had nervous breakdown – Re-elected to Illinois state legislature (running first in his district) – Received license to practice law in Illinois state courts
1837   Led Whig delegation in moving Illinois state capital from Vandalia to Springfield – Became law partner of John T. Stuart
1838Defeated for Speaker – Nominated for Illinois House Speaker by Whig caucus – Re-elected to Illinois House (running first in his district) – Served as Whig floor leader
1839Chosen presidential elector by first Whig convention – Admitted to practice law in U.S. Circuit Court
1840   Argues first case before Illinois Supreme Court – Re-elected to Illinois state legislature
1841   Established new law practice with Stephen T. Logan
1842   Admitted to practice law in U.S. District Court
1843Defeated for nomination for Congress
1844   Established own law practice with William H. Herndon as junior partner
1846   Elected to Congress
1848Lost renomination(Chose not to run for Congress, abiding by rule of rotation among Whigs.)
1849Rejected for land officer – Admitted to practice law in U.S. Supreme Court – Declined appointment as secretary and then as governor of Oregon Territory
1854Defeated for U.S. Senate – Elected to Illinois state legislature (but declined seat to run for U.S. Senate)
1856Defeated for nomination for Vice President
1858Again defeated for U.S. Senate
1860   Elected President

Embrace failure in yourself and the people you work with.  Recognize failure as a step towards success, and not the end of the story.  Remember, lack of effort is not failure, it’s nothing.  Failure is a landmark on the road to success, and will get you that much closer as long as you stay on the path.