The Mother of All Success

Posted on June 25, 2024

An ancient Chinese proverb states,

“Failure is the mother of all success.”

Do you agree that failure is the Big Mama in the formula for high achievement? Is failure—what we consider the very opposite of success—an essential factor in the equation?

If so, that presents a problem.

So many people can’t take the punishment of mistakes and failure. They don’t want to feel awkward, screw up, lose, face criticism, or be embarrassed. They’re unwilling to fall short or be mediocre at something in the pursuit of their goal. So they retreat from risks, seeking to dodge the potential downside.

They become refugees from failure.

Here’s the irony: You can’t achieve your best ambitions without making mistakes. You know this. Failure has been your faithful sidekick, your best and most honest teacher in your life’s greatest achievements. Failure is the gritty coach that polishes your efforts and helps you shine. Failure says,” Hey, this isn’t working. Find the lesson here. Try differently.”

Sure, it gets painful, and it’s okay to lick your wounds. But failure is not telling you to wave a white flag on your dreams. It’s challenging you to regroup, rev up your warrior spirit, and press on.

It’s counter-intuitive, this idea that your level of success will be determined by your willingness to fail. But as the superstar Michael Jordan says,

“The key to success is failure.”

Still, nobody likes it. We generally despise it.

Brad Pitt, starring as Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball, says, “I hate losing, Chavvie. I hate it. I hate losing more than I even wanna win. And there’s a difference.” But Beane didn’t let his drive to avoid failure sabotage his striving. Instead, he made it a premier motivating force.

Maybe you can use failure that way.

If you bench yourself to avoid failing, or only attempt what’s easy for you, the odds of hitting a higher orbit of achievement are grim.

Just accept the fact that pursuit of your big ambitions is bound to leave you with a few battle scars. You’re tough. You can handle it. Be willing to stretch yourself, fumble around, fail, and keep going in spite of setbacks. The more you do that, the more you’ll build psychological muscle and the more you’ll succeed.

Mother is there to help.


Price Pritchett is one of the foremost experts on fast-growth strategies and breakthrough performance. His firm—PRITCHETT, LP—is recognized worldwide for its thought leadership on mergers, corporate culture, change management, and accelerated achievement. These writings define the behaviors and individual mindset underlying fast growth and innovation.


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