By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Do you imagine how life would have been different if you had started out with a different set of assets and tools? What if you had been born to an incredibly wealthy parents or born with a photographic memory or a genius for math or art? Few of us are so lucky. But, even though they may not have been born lucky, most of the people who end up exceptionally wealthy or successful, make better use of one asset that all of us have. In fact, it is their ability to make use of this abundant asset that is the one trait that separates the truly successful from all others. What is this most abundant asset? Mistakes.
Whatever you call it --- mistakes, downturns, set backs, bad breaks --- all of us have an abundance of these assets. Why do we call them assets? Hang on.
You Learn More from Failures, Mistakes and Bad News Than from Success and Good News
Mistakes. Bad turns. Bad news. Negativity. Failure. These are the most abundant raw material of almost all lives. If we could sell our mistakes and failures for a buck each, each of us would be a millionaire many times over.
You may have some successes that come easily to you. But, odds are, that your failures and setbacks will far outnumber the easy wins.
This is why how you deal with failures and setbacks is so important to your outcome in life.
Thomas Edison, Inventor of the Telephone and Light Bulb, Cherished His Failures
Thomas Edison is often called a genius. He did, after all, invent some of the most essential tools of everyday life. How could we get by without the light bulb or the telephone?
Yet Edison was more a failure than a success, if you count his failures. Edison tried more than 10,000 ways to make the light bulb work before he finally succeeded. Edison liked to say, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Bill Gates Mines His Failures for Golden Nuggets
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has been the richest man in the world for most of the past 20 years. What is his secret for success? It's not just his genius, which is evident.
Bill Gates exploits his failures. He says, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
He is suspicious of success and values failure for what it can teach him. " Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking that can't lose."
Failure, not success, is the master teacher. If you fervently only wish for success, you will overlook the most important gift you can encounter, the gift of failure.
The gift of failure is that it forces you to make a choice --- accept being a failure or change for the better.
Failure also does another thing. It gives you something to work on, a new target. Success does not do that. Success encourages self-adulation and complacency.
None of this means that you should strive for failure, since having it is such a good thing. What this means is that you should recognize that you will encounter failure far more than success. Therefore, if you have not trained yourself to learn to use failure, you will simply succumb, as most people do, to frustration.
Having a "failure strategy" insulates you from going into a default mind set of defeatism.
Take 15 minutes to an hour each week thinking about how you will use your failures. If you have found yourself blocked in the past, think about how you will analyze your failures better next time, to help steer you toward a different outcome.