9 Quotes About Failure And What They Really Mean

We have all seen the multitude of success quotes, and quotes about failure that seem to run rampant all over the interwebs these days. And if you’re like some of us you worry that all of human knowledge has been reduced to only quotes and sound-bites. Still though, it isn’t like the knowledge of those before us hasn’t been helpful—especially when they have so nicely condensed it down for us into those tiny little chunks. You can find it all from, quotes about failure, to success, to love, or even your great-grandmother’s treasure-trove of wisdom!

quotes about failure

So I decided to take it upon myself and see if I could piece together a plan—an actual guide—of how one might put those little gems together to indeed better our lives. Here is what I came up with. Let’s call this: Experiment Number One: Quotes about Failure.

My top 9 quotes about failure

Let’s start with Pop Culture:

Who I am as a guitarist is defined by my failure to become Jimi Hendrix. ~ John Mayer (Tweet this)

Okay . . . I can maybe see where he is going with this—maybe. He has had to define his own thing in life, because—try as he might—he wasn’t Jimi Hendrix. It kinda reminds me of what Louis C.K. said with,

I think you have to try and fail, because failure gets you closer to what you’re good at. ~ Louis C.K. (Tweet this)

So now we are getting somewhere! We aren’t all amazing at the same thing—though we all may be amazing. To see it from Louis’ point-of-view, then, failure helps us by telling us what we’re not good at, so that we can focus on what we are good at. I have heard this one said as, “go through the open door,” but I couldn’t tell you who said it.

I think the person who hit me the hardest with this list of quotes about failure was J.K. Rowling. Maybe it’s because I’m also a writer, or maybe it’s because in her words I can hear the suffering she went through. I’ll let you judge for yourself. She said,

Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. ~ J.K. Rowling (Tweet this)

That last part, for me—where she says the only work that mattered—that part got me. It’s hard sometimes knowing what we want in life. We don’t want to fail—at least I know that I don’t. It hurts too much. Plus, (and I know this part is just me) I always think about what other people might say, or them possibly looking down on me for failing. They won’t care that I tried, I think. They only want to see me fail. I’m wrong, of course. At least that’s what my quotes about failure tell me.

They say, among other things that,

Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again. ~ Richard Branson (Tweet this)

Or even,

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure. ~ Abraham Lincoln (Tweet this)

And this one, says,

Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s okay to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing. ~ H. Stanley Judd (Tweet this)

But in my heart sometimes, it doesn’t seem to matter what they say about failing. And honestly, it’s not even what I say about failing. The truth is, that it’s what the imaginary people in my head are going to say about failing. I don’t know how those people got in there . . . but they sure don’t want to leave. And not only that, but boy do they talk! A lot!

I think, for me, silencing the inner critics is the hardest. Maybe it’s like what Jon Acuff said,

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. ~ Jon Acuff (Tweet this)

Which of course got me to thinking about what W. Clement Stone said,

Like success, failure is many things to many people. With Positive Mental Attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order and prepare to try again. ~ W. Clement Stone (Tweet this)

And this is where I finally struck pay-dirt! 

This thing—this rung on the ladder—he mentions. Maybe that’s what I needed to realize.

Imagine for a moment we were all up on top of a deep pit; standing around it, and looking down into it. And there were some people stuck in that pit down below. Let’s say we handed them down a ladder to use so they could get to freedom. As they tried to climb up, would you call them a failure for only being on the third rung? And would you only be happy once they succeeded in getting to the top?

Think about it. What would that mean to the people who were trying to climb up, if all you did was heckle them for not being a success yet? Maybe it’s like Edison said,

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ~ Thomas Edison (Tweet this)

Did your words frazzle those people trying to climb? Or did your words inspire them?

You see, I think really, we all have to try to climb out of this same pit. I myself don’t have any quotes about failure that I invented, but I do have a story about climbing the ladder of success I made up that I think works.

A group of people woke up to find themselves in a room with no doors or windows, but it was a nice enough place. All around them were the bottoms of ladders and a sign on the wall that said, “Touch a hundred rungs, and you win.”

Some people ran around the bottom, touching all of the easy ones and they were content. Others looked up and, realizing they had a goal of reaching a particular top rung, immediately forgot all the other ladders.

It wasn’t until many upward rungs later that they saw a hastily-scribbled note, saying, “*(Editor’s Note: a hundred rungs on the same ladder.)”

Finally, a plan

I think at this point we all have processed every one of our “quotes about failure” and can now finally formulate a plan for our own success and move forward. Quite possibly, then, that means our experiment was a success. Let’s see.

Step 1: We have to choose something! Anything. But ideally it should be something unique to us—something we truly love.

Step 2: What if we choose wrong? Inevitably it won’t matter. Our failures will help guide us to what is special about us, but only—and this is key—if we keep failing enough times that we can actually start to see a pattern and hone our path even further.

Step 3: We forget about all the other “should’ves and could’ves” from our past and just climb our own ladder.

Step 4: We ignore the hecklers that cannot see what we see. Note: many of those voices will be in our own head. Let no one keep you from climbing your own ladder—even yourself.

Step 5: (and this one is a bonus one) We do not heckle those on a lower rung of the ladder than us, and we do not compare our height so far with anyone else’s.

Eventually, and this I promise you, we will all climb out of the pit!

About the Author

Transformational Guru and author of a popular self help book

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