We often fear failures. The struggles in life are real. We have to be strong to survive. The stories of famous leaders provides food for thought. Thomas Edison developed thousands of prototypes of the light bulb before he found the one that worked. Albert Einstein was unemployed for two years after he graduated college. Like Edison and Einstein, modern day luminaries like Mark Cuban and J.K. Rowling were able to use their setbacks to push them forward. Here are several examples of extremely successful leaders who learned from their failures including a few from Aaron Taupe discussion on success and failure.
Steve Jobs had a natural ability to lead. He started his business in his parents’ garage. The company developed and grew. It attracted a board of directors that in the end fired him. Devastated but not to be deterred from his dream, Jobs started another company which focused mainly on software. Today the world enjoys his innovations ranging from Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, iMac and more.
Oprah Winfrey learned that failure is only an illusion after her cable network started off poorly. She said the worst time in her professional life came when the Oprah Winfrey Network’s (OWN) ratings plummeted a year after launch. Later, in a Harvard commencement speech, Winfrey said that she told herself repeatedly that failure is an illusion. She said “there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. When you’re down in the hole, when that moment comes, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while. Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost—but then here’s the key; learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are. Winfrey was able to get OWN moving in the right direction, and the network gained a profit in 2013.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban prior to starting his first company, worked as a bartender, a short-order cook, and a carpenter. Cuban later told CNN that on multiple occasions, he would come home with a date only to find the electricity had been turned off by the utility company. Cuban decided to have a positive outlook about his failures and made sure to learn something from his mistakes. He told Smart Business “I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed, you only have to be right once”. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all”.
Jay Z learned that his success needed to come from within after his second album flat-lined. Jay Z’s first album “Reasonable Doubt” is considered by many to be one of the best rap albums of all time. His second album “In My Lifetime”, wound up not being as successful commercially as his first, and he was not happy. He said “I tried to make these records that were bigger and would be more popular, which was a failure. Going for that success really messed up that project and set a bad tone. It was a huge learning lesson for me that if I was going to be successful, I had to be successful with myself. I couldn’t be successful doing what other people were doing. I had to do what I believed in and what felt real to me and true to me”.
Failure gave J.K. Rowling the freedom to pursue her art. In 1993, the Harry Potter author was an unemployed single mother who saw herself as a failure. She later said in a commencement speech at Harvard, that the experience actually helped her by getting rid of her fear of failure—which allowed her to focus on writing the stories that would ultimately become the Harry Potter novels. “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea”.
So we gather from these examples of success that if you want to be successful, you must follow your heart, your passion. If you strongly believe something in your ability; Go for it! Reach for the stars! More than likely you will achieve with dedication and hard work. To lead yourself, you must believe in your ability.