Press "Enter" to skip to content

Is Failing Bad?

I’ve been having some discussions with my kids lately about “failure,” both theirs and mine. My son’s not getting the grades he wants, and I’m experiencing some professional setbacks I’m not happy with, and my daughter…well, she’s 8, and perfectly content with life, and I think that’s perfect.

But the question keeps coming up, “Is failure bad?”

I think the answer is, “It depends on what you do with it.”

Here’s what a lot of people do. Let’s take my professional situation. I’m working on a book. Say I put together a proposal, query 40 or 50 agents, and wait. Every agent says no, this is not what we’re looking for.

I throw the proposal in the trash and go on.

I’ve failed. It’s bad. I’ve given up on my dream of writing this book.

That is, indeed, failure. That’s when I’ve just flat-out not reached my dream. But think about why I didn’t reach it. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Now imagine that after all 50 agents send the query back with a rejection, I sit down with my query letter and try to figure out what to say to get their attention and show them that I really have an idea and I really can write and promote the book. Then I send it to the next 40 or 50 agents on my list.

I failed, with the first 40 or 50. But I *succeeded* in getting beyond the failure. That’s good. I succeeded at three things: one, deciding that I wanted to continue; two, figuring out what I could do better; and three, continuing.

Every failure is an opportunity to try again, a little harder, a little better, with better information and more passion.

Failing’s not bad. Failing is how you move forward. Unless you give up. Giving up is bad. Failing is just locomotion.