As a teenager, Steven Spielberg longed to attend one of the prestigious film schools at UCLA or USC, where he hoped to create the foundation for a future career as a movie director.
Unfortunately for Spielberg, these top-flight universities saw only poor high school grades and no potential, so they rejected him – multiple times. As a backup plan, he enrolled at California State University at Long Beach, but eventually dropped out.
That’s quite a bit of failure in a short time. Of course, things worked out for Spielberg, whose story can serve as inspiration for others who fail, which is pretty much everyone, says Dr. Akintoye Akindele, the Forbes Books co-author with Olakunle Soriyan of A Love Affair with Failure: When Hitting Bottom Becomes a Launchpad to Success.
“Failure is the birthplace of success,” Akindele says. “If there is anything we should be learning, it is how to fail, and how to fail as often as needed.”
Or, as the Rev. T.D. Jakes wrote in the foreword to Akindele and Soriyan’s book, “Failures and fallouts, setbacks and detours are par for the course.”
Par for the course or not, people tend to fear failure, and often let that fear stifle their ambitions, Akindele and Soriyan say.
“Tough, turbulent moments make us want to take a step back permanently,” Soriyan says. “They are hard to deal with because they contradict our expectations and make us doubt ourselves and question our prospects.”
That’s why people should change their mindset about failure, Akindele and Soriyan say. Here are four ways of looking at failure to help do that:
Accept that failure is common. As life progresses, most people will lose more times than they think they can bear, Akindele says. A coveted job offer won’t materialize. Partners will walk away. A product won’t sell as well as envisioned. “You will find yourself questioning everything you have believed, even yourself,” he says. “You will make mistakes. All of these things matter, and none of it does – not as much as how you react when everything crumbles, not as much as what you learn when it does and how you use it.” Akindele and Soriyan point out in their book that Bill Gates’ first startup, a company called Traf-O-Data, flopped. But one of Gates’ partners termed the doomed venture a “favorite mistake because it confirmed to me that every failure contains the seeds of your next success.”
Embrace the opportunity for self discovery. Difficulties teach people about themselves, Soriyan says. “Hardships are portals of self discovery,” he says. “You are the most important element in your journey; not your parents, not your partners or investors. You. It matters who you are. It matters why you want to succeed. To understand your motivations, limitations, and strengths is to be truly resilient. “
Remember that failure is not permanent. It’s easy for someone to view failure as an impenetrable wall blocking them from their goals. But it’s actually more like a detour that momentarily forces you off your desired route. “The difficult periods on the road to your destination are not markers signifying the end,” Akindele says. “They might give you a bit of pause and make you reevaluate your position, but if you hold steady, you will make it through.” He offers as an example Abraham Lincoln, whose early political career was “defined by relentless failing and difficulty.”
Realize that perseverance really does make a difference. Everyone knows the importance of perseverance, at least in theory. But knowing it and doing it are two different things. “Don’t let the challenges of the present moment deter you,” Soriyan says. “Keep going and keep going strong.” This doesn’t mean to plow ahead alone, ignoring your fatigue. “Reach out for help where you need to,” he says. “Sit down and rest for a while if you need to. Take stock. Reassess. Learn about yourself. Understand your mistakes. But get up again and keep going.”
Finally, it’s important to remember that, although people would like it to be otherwise, life was not designed for uninterrupted stretches of ease, Akindele says.
“You will have a lot more ordinary and bad days than good ones,” he says. “You will have days where you are scrapping and fighting to survive, and days when nothing good or bad happens – just plain, simple, regular days. So when the glory days come, enjoy them.”
About Dr. Akintoye Akindele
Dr. Akintoye Akindele, co-author of A Love Affair with Failure: When Hitting Bottom Becomes a Launchpad to Success, is the Chairman and CEO of Platform Capital Group. As an investor, best-selling author, and philanthropist, he is committed to enhancing Africa’s role in the global economy. In addition to his many roles in business, Dr. Akindele is a lecturer and faculty member of the University of Lagos Business School. He holds a doctorate degree in Business Administration (Finance) from the International School of Management in Paris. Dr. Akindele lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
About Olakunle Soriyan
Olakunle Soriyan, co-author of A Love Affair with Failure: When Hitting Bottom Becomes a Launchpad to Success, is the Chief Knowledge Officer and Lead Strategist at Kenneth Soriyan Research and Ideas LLC. He is also CEO of Africa House, a platform linking investors with entrepreneurs and innovators of African descent. Soriyan’s skills have served various arms of governments and many organizations in different parts of the world including Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Total and Shell. He lives in Plano, Texas