Failing Your Way to Success

Nov 7, 2013 | The ONE Thing | 0 comments

Success is not something that comes easy. It’s not something that simply happens because one tries. For even the most successful people, their gains come only after a fair amount of failing. This is true no matter what industry you work in or interest you pursue.


We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: mistakes are our learning opportunities. Successful people use those epic fails as a chance to reconfigure, innovate and find out what works best. History has shown us that the path to success is paved with failure. You can make the path as short as possible by learning how to turn failures into success builders.

Famous People That Failed and What We Can Learn From Their Setbacks

When you look into the lives of some of the most successful people that have ever lived, you’ll notice a trend – they didn’t let failure stop them from reaching their goals. Today, we’re taking their fails and turning them into success lessons for ourselves.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney was actually fired from his job at the Kansas City Star because his editor thought he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas.” Disney pushed on, but still didn’t see quick success. His first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, went into bankruptcy. Finally, after making the move to California with his brother, he struck gold with his second cartoon studio that would later become The Walt Disney Company.

Failing Your Way to Success Lesson: Subjectivity shouldn’t stop you. When you look back on a failure, if someone else’s opinion was involved take their constructive criticism into account, but don’t let it convince you that you can’t accomplish your goal. If Disney had let his old boss convince him he had no imagination we wouldn’t have the “happiest place on Earth.”

Oprah Winfrey

The original goal for Oprah Winfrey was to become a news anchor, not a talk show host. She did become an evening news anchor for WJZ-TV in Baltimore, but it was short lived. One of her producers felt she got to emotionally invested in her stories and canned her. However, the producer offered her another job on the daytime TV talk show People Are Talking. Originally Winfrey was disappointed she hadn’t succeeded in her news anchor role, but the talk show took off, and Winfrey realized through that failure where she truly shined.

"The Great Debaters" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals

Failing Your Way to Success Lesson: Don’t discount alternative opportunities that fit your skillset. Winfrey had set her mind on becoming a news anchor, but it was her producer that saw her true calling in a related role. It’s okay to adjust your focus if you find through failure that it will ultimately help you succeed.

Bill Gates

Even the richest man in the world had a failed first business. Bill Gates started his first business Traf-O-Data with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert. In a write up for Newsweek, Paul Allen said Traf-O-Data “was a good idea with a flawed business model.” Obviously they took away a few lessons from their mistake

Failing Your Way to Success Lesson: You’re never too big to fail. Even if you are coming off of success or a leader in your field, there’s still the potential for failure and learning from it. Too often people that have seen success in school or another business fool themselves into thinking they’ve got the Midas touch and don’t fully capitalize on their failures.

Henry John Heinz

Henry John Heinz had a successful condiment business that produced horseradish, celery sauce, sauerkraut and pickles until a bad harvest deal overwhelmed the company’s resources. Heinz ultimately had to file for bankruptcy in 1875. With the help of his family he was able to quickly start over, but this time he introduced tomato ketchup to the market in 1876. By 2012, Heinz was a $10.7 billion dollar global company largely due to ketchup sales.

Heinz ketchup bottle isolated

Failing Your Way to Success Lesson: Reinvention and focus can be that left hand turn to success-ville.  Instead of trying to start where he left off, Heinz realized that scaling the product line back would help him from over extending himself. Often we fail because we are trying to do too much too fast. Heinz stuck to what he knew – condiments – but he took it in a new direction that focused on ONE Thing, which led to many more successes down the road.

Where have you failed in life or business? And, what have you learned from that failure that’s put you back on the path to success?

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