Failure: A Feedback Mechanism towards our Success

Any individual who is deluded into thinking that we can live our lives without going through some sort of failure are living in a fantasy world.

And by the way, if you are such a person, then you are more likely to attract a whole host of ‘failures,’ in your life to try to teach you the lesson that to fail, is actually an experience that we all need as individuals to grow.

In my own life, I can think of a whole host of “failures,” that I went through.

Below are a few of them and what I learnt from these events:

  1. In primary school, I was pathetic in sports – particularly the 100m and 200m sprints. I remember my sports teacher giving up on me when it came to these to particular events. When it came to short distance running, I was a failure. However later on in my high school years, I found out the reason why. I was actually more skilled in other events that included shot-putt; discus and long distance running. In my early twenties I took part in various long distance running events that included the 10km women’s spar challenge and Nedbank 5km run. “Failing” early on sports served as a feedback to me on where my talent really lied.
  2. In high school, I failed my learners test twice and later in my early varsity years, I failed my drivers license test twice. In the first two years of driving my own vehicle I was involved in three mini accidents. Two of which were ‘fender benders,” and the third one resulted in my vehicle being written off. Failing on both those occasions together with the experience of those mini accidents gave me the opportunity to learn the rules of the road and practice my skills a driver and be the cautious, skilled driver that I am today.
  3. During my first job as a Pastel Accounting trainer, I made a mistake when quoting a client the price for a new package, resulting in a financial loss to the company. After admitting fault and ‘failure’ to my manager at the time I had to go back to the client and rectify the matter, thereby teaching me valuable lessons of accountability and professional diplomacy.
  4. In my early twenties, I failed my QE 1 board examination twice. During preparation for my third attempt, I read a lot of self-help books , especially on personal motivation. Only as a result of failing that exam, did I learn about personal resilience and persistence. I fondly look back to that event and am thankful for ‘failing’ because it proved to me that through the power of my mind and my own thoughts, I can get through any event. More importantly, from that event, I started my journey of learning about how to make personal transformations in my own life. Today, I am a certified life coach, and my journey started as a result of failing my QE 1 exam many years ago!
  5. I experienced failure again in 2009 whilst studying for my CIMA examination when I failed my TOPCIMA examination on my first attempt. Being a qualified CA(SA) at this stage, with a senior role at SAB, it was a bit of an embarrassment to fail, to say the least! However, on my second attempt at the examination, I applied a concept called, “System Thinking” to prepare and passed with 59% (which in CIMA examinations is the equivalent of an ‘A’ pass!) As a result of that experience, I now teach T4 syllabus to other CIMA students, passing on the knowledge that I learnt as a result of ‘failing!’


“Edison did not fail…the light bulb just did not light up 10 000 times!!!”

I love this phrase as it is a reminder to me to keep my own failures into perspective.

Randy Pausch also said,

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. Brick walls are there to remind ourselves of how badly we really want something.”

So my advice to you is to accept your failure as just what it is – a feedback mechanism to you that whatever you are doing right now is not working. So you need to go back to the drawing board and analyse what you are doing wrong and change your approach accordingly!

As the saying goes, “If you keep on doing what you have done, exactly as you have done it, you will get what you always got!”

Also, in your teams at work, find ways to celebrate failure. I often find that as human beings we tend to celebrate success more often than failure. Yet success is on the other side of failure. So with your teams at work, introduce into your monthly or quarterly meetings a session to review individual ‘failures’ at work and get everyone to share with the team their biggest mistake that they made over the last period and what did they learnt from it! In so doing you will balance the energy and flow of your meeting to celebrate BOTH SUCCESS AND FAILURE!

If you want to get another perspective of failure – google a video by Honda entitled, “Failure – The Secret to Success!” It is one of my favourite video clips.

In closing,

“You can be discouraged by failure, or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that is where you will find success – on the far side of failure!”

Thomas J. Watson

PS: The picture attached to this article is me with a lion cub. It took us about 20 attempts to get this kitty to stay still to take the perfect picture…

Was the first 19 pictures a failure? Yes it was!

But it was persistence and patience that won the day!”


Dineshrie Pillay