Learning From Failure

I was watching an Oprah re-run last night and she was interviewing my idol J.K. Rowling. During the interview J.K. and Oprah discuss failure and I’m going to quote J.K. Rowling this was a short clip from her Harvard speech; which was played during the interview. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you’ve lived so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” I got to thinking about that quote last night and this morning; which lead to the idea of writing this post.

J.K. Rowling is absolutely correct you cannot live life without failing because otherwise you’re just not living, nor learning. To me when you fail you get the opportunity to see something from an angle that you hadn’t seen before. What would come after that would be a breakthrough, and ways to correct you’re last mistake, and make it better.

I’ve failed many times probably on every level as I’m sure you’ve learned from Sunday’s post and Monday’s post.

While watching that interview I reminisced on my past failures where I learned a lot and succeeded. Some of you know that I’m a GED graduate; however one thing that you do not know is that while trying to get the diploma I had a hell of a time trying to get my battery average up to be able to pass; which was kinda funny because I passed all of my courses. So with that I failed many tests after that trying to get my battery average up. What I learned from that was even though I knew the material and even though I studied I really needed to make sure that I didn’t panic during the tests and try to rush. God I was dead awful when came to testing I always let my nerves get the better of me. But after failing many tests I actually did it I got my battery average up to pass and I learned how to keep myself calm while testing.

Of course my biggest failure I’ve learned from came from writing Jenny Mac I can’t tell you how many re-writes I had over the years, and the new ideas that kept leading to those re-writes. But because of those failures and many, many re-writes I finally found my voice with Jenny and now I’m working towards publication.

If there’s anyone out there that is afraid of failing I hope that this article has helped you with your own fears of failure, and in case you’re wondering there were many times that I did want to throw in the towel with my GED and writing Jenny, but I worked through it and you can too.

Now I have a question that I’ve been dying to ask and that would be…

What have you failed at and what have you learned from that failure?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Thanks for checking out my blog.

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43 thoughts on “Learning From Failure

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about failure with eloquence and compassion. When I look back on my “failures” – and there were many – I realize that it was based on the definition of what I considered was a failure. Many times it was really success in disguise!

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  2. If rejection = failure, then as an author I have “failed” over 200 times! In between those rejections, I have had a children’s picture book published and have had my work seen in over 25 magazines. What did I learn? Never never never stop believing.

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  3. Well I tried to reply once before…I guess I “failed” so here’s goes try #2

    I don’t buy into the societal “failure” mode. Even some dictionarys define the word failing by using the failing in its definition…using a word to describe itself…seems like a failure to me.

    Consider the physician who seeks to cure disease “A” only to fail and yet cure disease “B”. Do we throw out his cure for “B” based on the fact it was a failure to cure “A”?

    I’ve worked as many as 20 re-writes just for one essay and never deemed a single one of them a failure. Each was different, sometimes thinner, sometimes fatter, but failures? Certainly not. Wasn’t it Einstein who said he didn’t fail 99 times to invent the light bulb, but succeeded in finding 99 ways not to make a light bulb?

    Rejection letters are the same. They are not a signal of failure, just the announcement that the reader didn’t jive with what was said. Case in point: a poem of mine, rejected in three competitions and two publications comes out in a literary journal in October. So who failed? Me with my poem, or the editors who didn’t select it? Maybe the one who will publish it…did he/she fail? I think not.

    Time and place for everything—here and now is all we have. I chose not to spend a single precious moment even considering failure.

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  4. An interesting read, it reminds me of the quote from Batman Begins ‘Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up’. I suppose we have to be exposed to failure so that we can try and avoid it. Failure is also the very process of learning itself, how do we learn how to walk? By failing and trying again, we have been failing since we were born.

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  5. I failed at realizing that if you decide years after starting to write something that your main character is a god/demi-god it will mess up previously written story line. More seriously I also “failed” at making good choices where college and careers were concerned and wandered aimlessly through four years without thinking of the after, but if that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have realized how important it is to plan what you are going to do and not just do things because it is what people do. Good post, thoughtful.

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  6. My college experience, or lack of it. After I withdrew I had no idea what to do with myself and contemplated many different things. Job interviews were thrown out of the window, volunteering wasn’t looked at very well for a high school graduate without a job and who was not going to college (at the time). Just many things tried failed and worked at again.

    So basically my first year and experience as a young adult, full of failures, but I still have four hundred thousand seconds of the day to try and change all of that again. :]

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    1. Wow thanks for sharing your failing experiences as a young adult I hope that you were able to figure out what you wanted to do with your life, and that things got a lot less complicated for you.
      Don’t feel bad about those failures though because there were a lot of times me at that age that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to be writer, but I had absoluely no idea how I was going to become a published author.
      I never went to college either although that is probably something I should’ve done, but I hated school.
      Anyway thanks for commenting.

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  7. After you liked my blog I came to check yours out. I really like how open you were about sharing your “failures”. I have been struggling with some health issues lately and have felt the outpouring of love and support from people reading my blog. I have found that by sharing my story I am not only helping myself but others too. I feel the same way about what you shared. Thank you for being open and helping yourself and others at the same time.

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    1. Well that has to be the nicest comment that I’ve rececived from this post thank you so much, and I’m glad you liked my post.
      I wish you all of the best with you health and hope with all of my heart that you see better days with it soon, and thanks for sharing your story.
      Thanks for commenting as well 🙂

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  8. A very interesting topic. The word “failure” was used a lot in in our household while I was growing up. I now see it as a very negative and destructive word, because there are so many positives that come from all events and experiences in our lives. To me, “failure” sounds like falling down and never picking ourselves back up. As I continue to move forward in life, (dare I say it) I don’t think I’ve failed at anything 🙂

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    1. That’s a good way to look at it especially when the word failure was used a lot when you were growing up. I think that children shouldn’t have to hear the word failure; because sometimes if they hear negativities like that they often feel that they won’t succeed.
      Good for you for not thinking that you’ve failed. 🙂
      Thanks for commenting.

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  9. That’s a great quote and outlook on failing. It’s something I’m starting to grasp. Sometimes trying something new feels like playing chicken with a speeding train but it should feel more like a roller coaster…because living through such an intense feeling always feels great on the other side. Keep up the good posts!

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    1. Thank you 🙂
      I think you’re right while going through that process it can certainly feel scary like roller coaster rides can sometimes feel, but once you’re on the other end of that you think what a rush.
      Thanks for commenting.

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  10. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for dropping into my blog. Yes, writing is a challenge and, for me, the glory of writing is forever refining and improving one’s craft. Persistence and a genuine respect for your readers will ensure you publish only when you feel you will succeed – for them, and therefore for yourself. Also being honestly self-critical (of one’s work) is essential – neither too hard nor too soft, and usually with feedback from others who can manage the same.

    I’m not sure if you went to my website, on the page:

    http://kristalmiuyee.com/workshops-tutoring-how-to-write-speech-speaking-how-to-presentation-help-me-write-kristal-yee.php

    I’ve included the section below, which is another perspective on the failure thing:

    I realised something about my approach to life when my niece,
    ‘Birds’, sent a text message to a number of people with this question:

    ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’

    She liked my reply: ‘A lot less than I have.’

    Keep writing, keep refining, access supportive, critical readers. If you demand quality from yourself, who knows what can happen – in my case, I got my MS to a senior publisher without an agetn…

    Also, if you love animals, you might want to check out one of the greatest animal companions I’ve known:

    Best of luck,KMY

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    1. Thanks for telling me you’re struggles with writing and you’re story of publication. It certainly sounds like the two links you’ve sent me would be a great read I’ll have to check them out.
      Thanks for commenting.

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  11. Probably my biggest repeated failure over the years was trying to lose weight. I’ve been chunky since I was a kid. I’ve made efforts to shed the pounds on and off since junior high, but I’ve never stuck with it. That is, until around August 2011. I finally changed my eating habits, got into an exercise routine, and after a year, I’ve lost over 100lbs. It’s definitely taught me when you want to to lose weight, you really have to want it for yourself. Failure is just delayed success, anyway. 😉

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  12. Hi Chelsea,
    Thanks for stopping by my new blog! I love posts that discuss the nature of failure, especially as it pertains to writing. It is always so inspiring to read the read the combination of failure and success of fellow writers. It keeps me moving through the stagnant times. Thanks for sharing such a post!

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  13. Thanks for liking my recent blog post! I like your post on failure and your way of thinking! The first post of my blog was about my fears and insequrity and how I manage them.

    I realized that it was my fears and insecurity that was keeping me from my PhD research, not my abilities.

    (You can read the post here:
    http://thephdwar.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/getting-back-to-my-thesis-world-steps-for-starting-again-to-work-on-your-thesis/)

    The most inspirational quote for me:

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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  14. I agree!! I you dont mess up every now and than life is boring. You have to get ot wrong to learn how to get it right. I want to throw my writing towel in often but i keep going. If you make no mistakes than you are not human.. Or your delusional.

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  15. Excellent post. It was a joy to read and I thank you for sharing. I would have to say that one of my biggest failings is actually failing to live. What I mean by that is by not doing things for fear that I will fail or for the fear of being wrong. As so many have said already, if you don’t mess up, then how are you really going to learn? It’s definitely something that I’m working on. Though I will say that for every answer that I got wrong on a test in school, that was one fact that I never forgot in the future. haha

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  16. hi, i really love your blog and all the awesome things you post, my failure was actually quite recent, but in a way I’m not really sad. On thursday in choir we were auditioning for the solo in one of our songs, and even though i’m quite a good singer I let my nerves get the better of me and didn’t do very well at all. As was to be expected, I didn’t get the solo and when I look back on it I’m actually pretty glad i didn’t as it nearly killed me just performing in front of the choir, let alone a whole auditiorium full of mums and dads. What I learnt from that failure? Just wanting something doesn’t get you it, you have to work if you want something. I wanted that solo so much it hurt, but so did everyone else and someone obviously worked harder than me. HUGE congratulations to isabel who did get it, she knocked my socks off and really deserved the part. Thanks for listening to my incredibly boring and petty story!

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    1. Actually I thought you’re story was pretty cool and you were right about everything with the choir somebody wanted it more, and in those situations it’s true somebody always wants it more.
      I’m really glad that you like my blog. 🙂
      Thanks for liking the post and subscribing.

      Like

  17. That’s such a fantastic quote! My failures: loads, particularly in situations that fitted other people’s perceptions of success or where I compromised to keep other people happy. My successes: loads too, particularly in activities where I’ve focused on what interests me, what I enjoy and what I’m good at.

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  18. For me, failure is a word used to describe a judgement at an arbitrary point in time. For example, I am learning to touch-type but cannot do it yet: am I failing? If I add in a criteria of wanting to learn by the end of the week then it is more likely that not being able to do it yet seems a sign of failing.

    We only really fail by accepting a particular point in time is the point to judge whether we have failed; if we do not then we are taking a break to consider new approaches.

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