Failure is part of the process that leads us to success. When seen from that perspective, we can begin to embrace it and learn the lessons it holds for us, says Jamuna Rangachari
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” says Michael Jordan, the ex-basketball player and businessman.
Actor Rahul Bose was the quintessential all-rounder in his years at the prestigious Cathedral School in Mumbai. "I was good at academics, sports, I acted, I wrote, I was good at debates. I thought I was a rockstar. My feet hardly touched the ground. And then after school, every one of my class mates, even the most mediocre of them, got admission to a foreign university except me"
That experience taught him many valuable lessons. "If it had not been for that, I would have been obnoxious, an absolute snob. The failure brought me down to ground and gave me some humility." Failure is not pleasant. It makes us feel inadequate. We doubt ourselves, reject ourselves, writhe under its harsh judgement, and often write ourselves off. To make it worse, society condemns failure and flays those who undergo it.
All of which is such a pity because failure is a most important and valuable experience. Indeed, it ought to be considered mandatory by schools and colleges that each of us undergo a failure experience. Fortunately, the Universe knows that, and in its infinite love for us, gives us many experiences of failure.
Without failure, we would never grow up. We would never understand reality. If we were to unfailingly succeed in all that we took up from an early age, we would begin to think that we were infallible. We would also look down on others for not being as smart as we were. We would be totally incapable of seeing their side of the story, or why it is that they were unable to deliver. Only failure brings us down to ground and makes us understand that not everything is under our control, and that we too, like everyone else, are under the dispensation of the Universe.
When we fail, we become vulnerable, and only vulnerability opens up our softer side. Understanding that we are as human as anyone else, enables us to relate to others as equals, which is the only way we can achieve love and intimacy in relationships. We also develop empathy for the other, for it is only pain that enables us to recognise pain in others.
Lavina Mehta (name changed), a Delhi-based businesswoman, shares that she had an extremely contentious relationship with her high-handed and patriarchal brother, the apple of her parents eyes, until he had an extra-marital relationship. His fall in the eyes of his parents and the pain he suffered from being infatuated with a woman who led him a merry dance, not just launched him on the path of self-knowledge, but made him a more humble and loving human being.
If society were to accept the salutary effects of failure, we would not fear it so much. For it is the fear of failure that stops most of us from venturing out into the unknown where our shimmering success lies waiting for us.
It is absolutely true that those who have enjoyed mega success have contended with difficulties, road blocks and failure before reaching the gold at the end of the rainbow. We need to deserve success, and in order to do so, we need to void the karma that stops it from happening, which is why we are often tested by the Universe. Our job? Hang in there and never say die.
In the early years of his career, Narayan Murthy was a software engineer with a partiality for communism, which he often thought of as the solution for India's heinous inequality and the groaning poverty of the masses.
While travelling to Paris on an official visit, he decided to visit all the nearby communist nations to explore the conditions there. What he found did not encourage him. Travelling by train near a border town between Bulgaria and Serbia, he started speaking with a young woman and the talk drifted to how tough it was to live in the communist world. Before long, a few guards came along and pulled them out. He was immediately put into jail for criticising the government. He spent the next 72 hours without food or drink. This shocking experience cured him of his dalliance with communism and caused him to determine to become an entrepreneur who would create thousands of jobs for the then struggling Indian middle class. Infosys may never have happened had he not undergone this experience.
J K Rowling had incubated the idea of the Harry Potter series long before it actually saw the light of day.
Soon after she began writing it, she was diverted by the devastating death of her mother. In the hopes of recovering from her grief, she took a job of teaching English in Portugal for a year. She made little headway with the book there, and instead, ended up with a failed marriage and a baby daughter she now had to raise alone. Even as she struggled with depression, raising a child on her own and living off meagre unemployment benefits, she resumed work on her book in cafes while her daughter was asleep. She knew she had to continue writing her story.
Healer and facilitator Rita Soman fell in love with an alcoholic and married him despite everyone’s opposition. Predictably, she suffered hugely. Finally, she left him. With the support of her parents, she slowly picked herself up and four years later, a lovely man and his six-year- old son, who were visiting India from the US, came into her life. She married him and moved to the US. She switched careers from being a school counsellor to a psychotherapist as well as an alcohol and drug counsellor. Unfortunately, despite a supportive and loving husband, she was unable to enjoy happiness because she continued being in the victim mode. It dawned on her that she must first heal herself before she could successfully create her future, and began looking for alternative healing methods.
Trishneet Arora was 11 years old when his father bought himself a computer. Trishneet started ‘experimenting’ on the computer. One day the computer crashed. At the repair shop, Trishneet watched closely while it was being repaired. The more he experimented with the computer, the more often it had to be repaired. His trips to the repair shop helped him pick up the basics of computers. He even started blogging to share his everyday learnings. But failure crept into his life too, when he flunked in the eighth standard because of his excessive focus on computers. Unfazed, he managed to complete his tenth standard through correspondence while continuing his love affair with computers.
Moving towards success
Narayan Murthy’s first company was Softronics, a company that targetted the domestic IT market. Since India was not ready for IT products at that time, it was a big flop.
He could have given up at this stage, but he did not. It taught him instead to target the US market. In due time, he and six of his friends decided to form Infosys. The company itself was created in his co-founder's house with the money that Narayan Murthy had borrowed from his wife, Sudha, who was employed while he was not. The journey was certainly not smooth. Getting a computer took them 24 months, thanks to government red tape. Getting a loan was almost impossible. At one point of time, the company was even on the verge of a sell-out. Still, he and his colleagues stuck it out. After all these struggles, Infosys emerged successful and has a growing global presence of more than 199,000+ employees today.
When JK Rowling finally finished the first three chapters, she sent the manuscript off to a publisher. They quickly rejected it. She sent it to another publisher. Again, the answer was no. Her mailbox filled up with rejection letters, but she didn’t let it stop her. She kept on trying again and again. After sending her manuscript to 12 different publishers and getting rejected by every single one, Rowling began losing confidence in her book. Finally, the editor at Bloomsbury Publishing Company sat down to read the manuscript along with his daughter. The little girl loved the opening chapters, and begged to read the whole thing. After that, the publisher agreed to take on the book.
Rita’s journey began at age 35, but the real help came in 2006 when she read Dr. Bruce Lipton's book, The Biology of Belief, when she was 51. She learned the PSYCH-K process which helped her to release her past trauma and improve her self-esteem. She completely healed herself and has been in private practice offering individuals and families the PSYCH- K® process in conjunction with other methods of healing that she has perfected over the years. More important, she shares a wonderful life with her husband and stepson, who is now a successful social worker making a difference in the lives of mentally challenged individuals.
Nobody took Trishneet’s efforts seriously but he kept on updating himself on the latest in the hacking world and realised that the data of several companies was being stolen and misused. When he proved this with his skills, he created a buzz in the hacking world. At 22, he laid the foundation of his company, TAC Security. His clients include Reliance, CBI, Punjab Police, Gujarat Police, Amul and Avon Cycles. He has also authored three books on this subject. And you can be sure he does not lose any sleep at night over his failure in the eighth standard.
The school of failure
Everyone who we now call a success story struggled, failed many times and still never gave up on their dreams. In fact, our DNA itself is the result of endless failures as failure is a part of evolution and a part of natural selection, and the grand design of things here on earth.
At an event to honour him, Narayan Murthy said, “Indeed, the highest form of knowledge, it is said, is self-knowledge. I believe this greater awareness and knowledge of oneself is what ultimately helps develop a more grounded belief in oneself, courage, determination, and, above all, humility, all qualities which enable one to wear one's success with dignity and grace.”
Murthy has also often said, “Entrepreneurship is all about deferred gratification. Therefore, it is about hard work, sacrifice, pain, commitment today in the hope that tomorrow will bring a fortune. Now, that requires good character, that requires determination, that requires a good value system.”
Today, Infosys is one of the most successful IT companies that also does as much as it can to help others through its CSR work. He believes that the impact of his company, indeed of entrepreneurship in general, extends not just to its employees, but to their families and beyond: "The children of those families have new opportunities… new hopes, new confidence. And that's what makes me sleep well.”
“My failures gave me the motivation to lead an outstanding life, think beyond my own problems and find a way to heal and then serve others,” says Rita. Her own pain gave her the empathy she needed in order to support others going through pain. “There is no word like failure in our dictionary. There is only experience, and we learn both from our right decisions and wrong ones,” says the wise Trishneet. “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,” J K Rowling says. Even after the publisher accepted her book, he told her to hold on to her day job as books for children never sold. We know today how wrong he was, as Harry Potter became the greatest brand the writing world has seen in recent years. All the people who have succeeded in life have done so because they never gave up. They learnt to see failure is a stepping stone, and not an obstacle. Each and every time something went wrong, they picked themselves up and tried again with renewed energy. They were shown a direction because they never stopped looking for solutions. The universe is full of answers. All we need to do is ask and never stop doing that.
Benchmarks of success
1. Recognise what you resonate with
The first step in doing anything is, understanding who we are and what we wish to do.
2. Work on it
Nothing comes easily to anybody. There is hard work involved in whatever the mission may be. This is what makes it
3. Treat failure as just a bend in the road
Failure is a part of any mission. We need to accept this with grace.
4. Learn from each and every failure
Each failure has something to teach us. We need to learn the lessons.
5. Stick on
Let us remember that the path to success is paved with failure and remember only the lessons.
6. Listen to the inner voice
Despite what anyone may tell us, ultimately we need to answer only to ourselves and the Divine power within. This is bound
to lead us to the destination that is uniquely our own.
7. Remain grounded
We need to always remember with humility and gratitude that our success is due to a variety of factors and not only because
Bio: Jamuna Rangachari writes and manages the websites of Life Positive. She has authored three books for children,compiled and interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive. and published a book through Hay House.
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