3 Reasons Why Failure is the Key to Success

Note: This is a guest post from Fred Tracy of FredTracy.com

If you’re like most people, you probably have a bad relationship with failure. You see it as an ending, as proof that your plan didn’t succeed or your ideas weren’t good enough. The truth is, failure happens to everyone. The only thing that separates people who succeed from those who don’t is a proper understanding of the power of failure. Success requires that you learn from mistakes and missteps along the way rather than falling into despair and giving up.

Pay attention to the information here, especially if you’re at a place where failure isn’t your friend, and you will find that opportunity lies in every defeat. Here are 3 reasons why failure is the key to success.

1. Failure is a Function of Trying

The best way to measure your progress at something is the number of setbacks and “failures” you’ve had. If you haven’t failed yet, chances are you aren’t trying very hard. Failure is the blacksmith’s hammer that tempers the sword of success. If you want to get really good at something, you have to fail at least a few times.

If you look at all the great men and women throughout history, you’ll notice that they had one main thing in common. They failed, and they failed often. Think of Thomas Edison. How many times did he fail to find the right filament for his light bulb? There are various estimates, but they all range in the ballpark of a whole heck of a lot. Henry Ford knew of failure intimately. So much so that he is quoted for saying the following: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

Clearly, failure represents opportunity and growth, not deficit and loss.

2. Success Lies in Seeing Failure as a Tool

Just as all the greats have something in common, so too do the true “failures” of life: their inability to use failure as a tool. When you feel that sinking, desperate sensation known as failure and you take it to heart, you diminish yourself. You give your power away to an external event. Success is about learning how to recognize why you failed, and how you’re going to compensate for it.

I find it helpful to ask myself the following questions upon failures, big and small.

  • What brought about the failure?
  • How much of it is in my realm of influence?
  • How can I use my influence to turn failure into success?
  • What steps do I need to go through to try again?
  • What can I do every day to ensure that my next try is done more intelligently?

You may want to get out a piece of paper and go through that list. Be completely open and honest as you ask yourself each question. Analyze your answers carefully and implement them – don’t procrastinate! Remember, failure is an opportunity, not a burden. Be grateful for a chance to grow.

3. Failure Builds Character

If you look at the events leading up to any significant victory, you’ll often discover failure as the biggest motivator. Just as the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon over a period of millions of years, success can also come in small chunks, and they’re part of any winning strategy. On the other hand, waiting years upon years for something to happen isn’t effective when you can take action now.

So what do you need to consistently test yourself and learn from failed attempts? Character.

Success occurs in leaps and bounds for people who are ready for it. To genuinely create value, day in and day out, requires determination, purpose, and most of all, that subtle yet all-important trait known as character. Failure is a far better character builder than any affirmation or fleeting goal. While each success will propel you by a small amount, failure will forge your career – and your personality – like nothing else will. It’s the difference between a natural lake being formed over thousands of years and a man-made lake coming into fruition in under a year.


Success takes willpower, intelligence, determination, and grit. But more than anything else, it requires failure. Use this is an opportunity to reassess your relationship to the true key to success that so many people fear.

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Fred Tracy runs a personal development website where he writes about his unique experiences and insights into growing yourself. He writes in a humorous, direct style, and aims at entertaining his readers as much as helping them better themselves.

Photo by Sister72


  1. Thanks for my inclusion, Donald. I hope this post is helpful to people. 🙂

  2. Fred,

    Awesome article my friend. I view failure from the viewpoint that at least I am trying something new and expanding myself.

    The belief is that the only failure in life is not trying.

  3. Hey Justin. 🙂

    Yeah, I absolutely agree. Failure is a stupid term that needs to be wiped clean of everyone’s vocabulary!

    Simply try, try, and try again. You can’t ever have success without failing.

  4. Thanks Fred for the post.
    It’s how to handle failures that lead us to success.
    One that never fail will never achieve true success, thus the attitude towards failure is very important in leading us to the right path to success. 😀

  5. A good read, Fred.

    For me, failure is a function of doing. To achieve anything, we have to do, and sometimes what we do doesn’t always work. Such failure is feedback, which means that the next time we do, we do it differently because we’re better informed.

    Wishing everyone the kind of failure that generates success,


  6. Yes it’s true that the really successful people of the world have failed tons more than the average individual. That is the secret right there… to keep taking action in the face of failure until you succeed.

  7. No joke Fred, if I didn’t fail I probably would have never learned all the great career skills I have today.

    It’s often when I find out something isn’t working that I discover the better way to do things. It’s an ongoing process but a great way for me to learn.

  8. Hey Fred,
    First time here.
    Awesome post. In my opinion if we want to succeed in life we need to not only study success but also study a phenomenon of failure. We really need to learn how to deal with failure in order to be unstoppable and effective human beings.
    I just want to add that failure (used improperly) is only one enemy of success. There are also other forces that we need to know about like distractions, obstacles, rejections and critics. Know your enemy, win the war!
    See you around.

    • Hey there Derek. Thanks for commenting. Ah.. yes.. distractions. That’s something *I* could definitely use an article about. Anyone want to write one? 😛

  9. I have posted the link to my fb wall… I like it… thanks for the info!

  10. Failure is only failure if you accept it as that. If you look at it as feedback, then you can always grow from it. I’m actually thinking about doing a post titled “Why are so we afraid of failure?” Great article btw!

  11. […] is something we ALL need – 3 reasons why failure is the key to success. I think I personally need this taped to my […]

  12. A great article on the role of setbacks and failure in success. I certainty sometimes suffer from the belief that a failure somehow proves I’m not good enough and never will be. I imagine truly successful people never really suffer serious setbacks or failures because they always had what it takes. Setbacks and failure are painful and disappointing. Thank you writing this article — I think it will help people get back on their feet, get back on the horse that’s thrown them, much quicker than they otherwise would have. It may even keep someone from quitting because they’ve simply failed, because they’ve experienced a very disappointing setback, which is absolutely the biggest mistake one can make.

  13. […] is something we ALL need – 3 reasons why failure is the key to success. I think I personally need this taped to my forehead… […]

  14. my teacher is sharing this paper with all of her 1-7 periods…………….were doing an essay on it…..its a great essay too fred tracy!!!!

  15. great article!!!

  16. excellent!

  17. thanks this article helped me with a project in my high school.

  18. Hair. I’m not some big adult who is commenting in here. I’m just a 15 year old who was (keyword:was) depressed in failing math exam whereas getting good marks in all other exams. Failing in that math exam definitely helped me immensely. Of course initially I was very disappointed and sad. But then I took the vow that I would try as much as I can for the upcoming maths exam. No joke I tried as hard as I could and today I attended the math exam. I’m proud to sat this that I did great in today’s exam. Failure made me pursue and I agree now that failure is my best friend for it helped me succeed. I may be young but still I felt the need to share this.
    Have a great day or night or noon. 🙂

    P.S that was a great article.

  19. Its such a great article… it’s inspiring

  20. Paulina Ndinelago Iingwafa
    Paulina Ndinelago Iingwafa

    This is very useful, I never realize the power of failure but from today you make me see failure as part of my success, This is crutial for us , the young generation.

  21. There is certainly a great deal to find out about this issue.
    I love all the points you made.

  22. thank you a lot sir. It’s really help me interpret the failure itself.

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