Learning from Success and Failure

People succeed all the time. There are blogs, Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages, and news stories all celebrating the monumental successes of the world so they may live on in infamy. Certainly, success implies an exposure to risk – embarrassment, injury, loss – but success is also an invitation to learn and grow.

People fail all the time. There are blogs, Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages and news stories all celebrating the epic failuress of the world so they may live on in infamy. Certainly failure implies an (over) exposure to risk – embarrassment, injury, loss – but failure is also and invitation to learn and grow.

How Fascinating

sb54329So, is success and failure really that different?  Yes and no.  In terms of their end results, by definition, they are certainly on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Both however are prime learning opportunities.  Whenever Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, makes a mistake he throws his hands up in the air and says ‘how fascinating!’

Success and failure are both fascinating.  Success is fascinating because it’s an adrenaline rush of joy that can snowball into bigger and better things allowing you to build layer upon layer of your success. is a great example.  This blog is merely the most recent layer of success that started with Dan Schawbel’s personal branding beliefs and efforts. Risks?  Most certainly. Failures? Ask Dan. Regardless he’s pushed forward after each personal branding success to broaden his brand as the leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y.

Failing is equally as fascinating because it’s an unexpected opportunity to learn.
Far too many people focus on the act of failure and let the opportunity to grow and learn pass them by.  Individuals too often dwell on the ‘whats’ of the failure that are reinforced by the repetition and longevity sustained by the blogs, hashtags, and news stories. The post-fail learning opportunity is rarely dissected as finely and as publicly because focusing on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ someone fails tends to be a less dramatic and more introspective process.

Everyone plans to succeed. No one sets out to fail.
The most successful people have developed an ability to continually build upon their successes while viewing their failures as ripe opportunities to learn about their talents and grow their limits. Many people fear risk because of the potential consequences. The thought of failure overwhelms the pursuit of the success. When success and failure are both viewed as fascinating, the possibilities are endless and the reality of the risk can be more objectively assessed.

Take a Risk

Be bold and take calculated risks. If you never take the risk, you’ll never experience the tremendous learning opportunities available to you – you’ll only wonder forever. Ask that person out, start your own business, take that trip. If it goes well you’ll be thrilled and the experience can serve as a foundation for future success. If it doesn’t, you’ll be prepared to learn, grow and move on because you’ll learn and apply the new knowledge to the next situation.  You won’t shut down and barricade yourself from the future risks and rewards of life because it wasn’t an epic failure- just another one of your fascinating experiences.

Success?  Failure? What do you think?  Make it a good day.


Mike Severy is the Director of Student Life at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He views his work through the lens of student leadership development believing that students are developed over time through a series of meaningful experiences and that his role is to help students create and find the meaningful experiences in their lives. You can connect with Mike on Twitter (@MikeSevery).

Related posts:

  1. Failure is an Option
  2. Are you learning everything you need to know?
  3. Learning From Some of America’s Hottest Brands

One Response to “Learning from Success and Failure”

  1. avatar Kelly says:

    Learning to get over the fear of failure is huge. I’m still working on it, but getting better. I love that you worked Zander into this post. His work is great. One of my favorite parts of LeaderShape!

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  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

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    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

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