Failure is not an option. Sound familiar? Seeing as how it’s probably the most common motivational cliche used today, I’m sure you’ve heard it and have probably said it plenty of times. What if I said that failure is, in fact, an option and it can actually improve your performance and understanding of the task at which you failed? I’m sure you would make some sort of frowning expression of complete disagreement and decide that all words I said from that point on were complete crap. But let’s be honest. First off, no one is perfect. Everyone fails at something. Some failures are much more costly and, at times, more astronomically idiotic than others, but we have all at least set foot into the vast and ever expanding universe of failure. I think it’s human nature to view failure in the same light that we do death…and carbs (for some people). It makes sense though because in the real world (also known as nature), failure often results in death. The failure to catch prey results in death by starvation and the failure to avoid predation…well, this one’s obvious.


But life is different for the self-proclaimed kings of the planet. Humans live in a fantasy world very different from the world that lions and fish live in. We live in a world of second chances. If we forget to get milk from the store, we have the convenience of going and picking it up any time we want. If we don’t have a job to pay for food for our kids, there’s no worry because the government has our back. But if you’ve ever watched Animal Planet, you should know that if a crocodile misses the opportunity to catch prey and eat, he may not come across another one soon enough to survive.

But we are lucky. With a second chance comes the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. If your mom ever told you not to ride your bike too fast when you first started learning, there was probably a time when you got overconfident and wanted to see how fast you could go. You probably fell and scraped your arm, but I’d bet you didn’t go a hair over two miles an hour for another month after that incident. It’s basic learning psychology—you do something, it hurts, you don’t do it anymore. So you would think that every time someone failed at doing something, he would instantly learn from his mistake, just as we all did when we learned to ride a bike. But we know life is more complex than that. Our mistakes are much more complex than that. We also have to be willing to learn, willing to improve, and willing to admit that we failed but understand that our failure isn't inevitable and that success is within our reach.

So why do I say that failure is underrated? It’s an extremely powerful tool for success. If used correctly, it can take your success to the next level. A failure is a huge opportunity to learn. It gives you a chance to recognize the mistakes you made and where you went wrong in planning and organization. But if you want to learn from your failures, you must learn to objectively assess what went wrong. If you're completely honest with yourself, hindsight is 20/20. But if you don’t look back at all, you’ll be blind to the mistakes you made (and could have easily corrected) and unfortunately be doomed to repeat them.

Another way that failure can act as a tool for success is by building character. I’m a firm believer that character is only built through adversity. If things are always easy or always given to you, there isn't any chance to build character. Luckily, for those of you who are more fortunate and are given everything in life, character isn't a tangible, measurable value. But I also believe everyone has his day. At some point in life, we all experience hardship. However, I think the effect it has on our lives is time sensitive. People who go through tough times early in life are well prepared for anything that comes at them down the road, but those who have it easy early on usually get a huge slap in the face later in life and sometimes don’t make it. I’m not bashing people who are more fortunate. I’m praising those who have experienced their share of distress and have overcome it, and I'm trying to help those who are currently experiencing tough times (whether it be in lifting or in life) realize that there is always good that can come from it.

When we fail, we learn. When we learn, we grow. When we grow, we kick ass. The only way that you can use failure as a positive tool is to have a positive attitude. Always. A negative attitude never did anything for anyone except dictate recurrent failure. There’s a quote that goes something like: "To expect defeat is nine-tenths of defeat itself.” If you think you’re going to fail, you will despite your capability to succeed. So keep a positive attitude when you do fail and make something out of it. Never let an opportunity to learn and grow go to waste.

That being said (and this is an important note), failure is very much a double-edged sword. When you learn how to use failure as a tool, you must use caution. When I say this, I mean use your failures to make yourself improve and learn but don’t accept failure. Don’t try to fail in an attempt to learn more. It doesn’t work that way, and it doesn’t make sense. More importantly, don’t change your attitude about success. Before you try, have that “failure is not an option” state of mind. If you do happen to fail though, you can change your mindset to “failure is underrated.”