Failure is not something we naturally enjoy, nor is it often viewed in a positive light.  In addition to the frustration that comes from having attempted and then failed at a something, failure can cause us to question our own self-worth and abilities, leading us onto a slippery slope of negative reinforcement.

But perhaps we simply have the wrong mindset when it comes to failure.

In their book Go for No, authors Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz argue that failure, or ‘no’, is actually a critical step on the road to success, or ‘yes’.  Rather than expect ‘yes’ and success upfront in our endeavors, we need to accept the fact that success generally comes after having tried and/or practiced something many times, failing as we go along.  Just as an aspiring athlete or musician shouldn’t expect to become famous overnight, individuals in the business world should become comfortable with the fact that they will hear ‘no’ from their clients far more times than they hear ‘yes’.  They must learn to remain persistent, understanding that each ‘no’ brings them closer to a ‘yes’.

While Go For No looks at failure as a stepping stone to success mainly from a business-perspective, the same logic holds true in all areas of life.  Ask yourself: how do babies learn to walk?  They try to stand up, wobble from imbalance, and then they fall down.  They fail.  And then they get up, wobble again, and fall down again.  They fail again.  They fail over and over, but each time they try they slowly improve their skill until finally they manage to walk.  They fail their way to success, and that is the lesson we need to learn: individuals succeed not because they never fail, but because they persist through.

This fact can be seen in the rise of many famous individuals.  Dr. Seuss was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher.  Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected by thirty publishers before being accepted (and he had supposedly thrown the manuscript into the trash at that point, but his wife told him to try again).  Gone with the Wind was rejected by thirty-eight publishers.  Legend has it that Walt Disney was turned down financing three hundred times before he secured funding to build Walt Disney World.  And KFC founder Colonel Sanders claimed to have been rejected one thousand and nine times before his chicken receipt was bought.

As Thomas Edison stated regarding his many efforts to create the incandescent lightbulb, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  So the next time a client says ‘no’ to you, or your efforts to try something don’t succeed, look at it from a positive perspective.  You’re one step closer to succeeding.



Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.