Why Failure is Not a Negative Experience but Rather a Positive One

I’ve heard this story a number of times before and I cannot say for certain whether it is true or not, but it has been said that Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb before he was successful. This means that 1,000 times in a row he attempted and failed, but with each failure he got back on the horse and tried again.  This a significant portion of achieving serenity in sobriety it involves learning to be ok with the failures of life or as they say “progress not perfection”. 

Edison continued to try, even though it wasn’t clear that what he was attempting to do was possible, and he continued even when failure met him every step of the way. Yet Edison never viewed these failures as a negative thing, but rather he took them in stride and put a positive spin on them when he apparently said, he “successfully discovered 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb.”

If we take the leap from Edison and the act of inventing to something more personal and relatable to the everyday, then we can see that in our lives, and in our own failures, we discover ways in which not to do something, which may allow us to learn how to successfully do it. For instance let’s say we face break up after break up, we could look at these failures as there is something wrong with us and our ability to have a relationship, or we could just say we discovered a number of ways to not have successful relationships.

Failures are as equally important as successes in life, because through our failures we learn what we don’t want, what we don’t need, and what doesn’t work. It is through our failures that we learn what we are truly made of and they make success all of the more enjoyable.

If you look at my own life, it is littered with failures. I attempted to get sober and overcome my eating disorder when I was 17 and I failed. I then spent the next 10 years of my life attempting to get sober and fix my life through a number of different means. I tried getting married. I tried having kids. I tried switching substances. I tried just about anything you could possibly think of and it all failed, but with each failure I was eliminating possibilities and through this process of elimination I eventually arrived at my own truth, I am an alcoholic and I needed real help for this problem.

I would venture to say that without my failures I wouldn’t have arrived at the point I am today. If I hadn’t attempt to fix my life through every means possible and failed doing so, I don’t think that I would have been able to have the success I’ve had over the past 2 1/2 years. I would probably be living in some purgatory of existence, getting numb and still thinking that everything was okay, but through my failure, the true nature of the problem was made clear and because of this a solution presented itself.

There is another saying that I love and it is ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and that is so true of life. If we aren’t willing to risk failure and in the process possibly failing a few times, then we aren’t willing to risk success. Being successful doesn’t mean that everything comes easy and on the first try, but rather it means that we stuck through the hard times, experienced the pain of defeat and continued on anyways. It means we tried, failed, tried again and then maybe succeeded.

I have also found that I have learned more through my failures then I have through my successes. Success doesn’t really cause me to reflect on my life in the same manner that failure does. When I am successful at something I jump for joy and feel good about life, but when I fail I am forced to look inside and see what lead to the failing and in turn try to change whatever it is. I think that at a societal level we have been taught from a young age that failure is not a positive experience and although it is not necessarily pleasant it is vital to success.

The reality is that no one likes to fail and so many times we will do anything that we possibly can in order to not fail. This may mean that we avoid risking something, or we avoid putting ourselves out there, and I have found this to be especially true among people in recovery.

This is not to put anyone down because it is totally understandable, people who have finally gotten sober do not want to put themselves in a position where they could possibly drink or use drugs again, so they go through life with trepidation, but because of this they are also extremely scared of failure. I know this is the case for me and I don’t handle risk or failure very well because I am scared what it will mean long term for my sobriety, but with that said some of the greatest growth in my life has come from taking risks and running the risk of falling flat on my face.

Last year I moved back to my home state after having been away for 18 months. I had heard all of the warnings about what moving home could mean for my sobriety and I took them all into consideration, but yet I still decided to go back so that I could be with my kids and share my new life with them.

Since being home I have experienced a number of failures, from just feeling like a failure to reacting in ways that I didn’t want to towards my ex-husband, but through all of this I learned what didn’t work and therefore learned what could possibly work the next time. With each failure I put my big girl pants on and got back to it and while it hasn’t been easy by a long shot, I feel like I have grown by leaps and bounds over this past year.

It’s funny because we put such a negative connotation on failure, but it is an integral part of life. No person escapes unscathed and no person wins every time. Understanding that we must fail to win and truly accepting this has changed my outlook on life and I am happy to report today that I am not as scared of failing as I was in the past.


Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

Shannon Egan

Shannon Egan is an author, international journalist, and advocate for addiction recovery. Despite training as a writer on humanitarian issues for the United Nations, Shannon prefers sharing her personal stories of addiction and recovery to infuse hope in those still struggling and spread the message that recovery is possible.