When Elon Musk built his company SpaceX , he was asked about the possibility for his company to fail. His answer was a textbook inspiration for me and for all the people who hesitate to do something big: “it is too important not to try.” History will tell you that achievers failed more than anybody around them. Some people are paralyzed by failure. Why on earth do I need to have new year resolutions? After all, I will not achieve any one of them — that is what a friend of mine said when we were walking back to our labs after eating lunch in the university cafeteria when I was in graduate school. This statement has stayed with me all these years later. It always comes back to my mind whenever I see someone telling me that they are not going to get a job, and asking why should they even try? Or, they will not bother to apply for admission to a school because they expect failure.
I feel sad when I hear such defeatist statements from young people. The statement stops our hopes and ambition, pushing us to the quiet corner of life without achieving anything. Several years ago, when I had a job interview with a woman in charge, she asked me in her office why I was applying for this job although I already had a great job. I answered by saying that I would like to try something new and grow more. She replied by asking: aren’t you afraid from failing and losing your current and future job? I would prefer to try and fail from not trying at all, I said.
How many people feel regret for not doing something versus regret for doing something wrong? It turns out that research shows that people regret not doing something more than doing something wrong. People who always stay in their comfort zone and do not engage in challenging things around them are people who stay where they are. Most likely these are the people who will tell you that they regret not doing things, justifying their constant decisions of staying in their comfort zone.
Creative ideas that emerge from brave people who decided to march ahead, ignoring all the signs of failure, amaze me. Elon Musk was sure to fail in a few SpaceX launches. The majority of people link the possibility of failing with the possibility of being judged. Research shows that original and creative thinkers have a lot of bad ideas. Almost 85% of their first ideas are bad. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, failed so many times that he started saying that he ran out of mistakes! Years later, nobody remembers him as a failure.
Creative achievers are the same people who failed the most. In fact, Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart had to generate hundreds and hundreds of compositions to achieve their masterpieces. In a way, if it took these talented people several hundreds of attempts to craft their masterpieces, the rest of us have to do even more including failed attempts, until we reach to successful ones.
What great achievers have in common is the ability to make many mistakes and ignore the stigma of failing by focusing on their goals. In other words, these people have/had what is currently called the growth mindset. Whatever they achieve is something that can be improved upon, and the final product is not achieved until after successive attempts.
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