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3 Devastating Failures All Successful People Experience

What is success in life?

I did not know what failure truly meant until I tried to step outside of the box and become an entrepreneur. Stepping out, trying something new, and stretching your capabilities almost automatically means that you will fail. Failure is a byproduct of success.

Failure means that there is a lack of success. Therefore, my personal definition of failure means that you do NOT have enough evidence to determine that you are successful. Evidence of success tells us that you are heading in the right direction.

It is hard to feel successful if there is NO immediate return on your investment. We look for signs and clues to tell us if we are heading in the right direction. We look even harder for these clues when we are stepping out into the unknown.

Going through the process of achieving success is difficult when you consider the dynamics of our culture. Our individualistic culture teaches us that the rights of the individual take precedence, self-sufficiency is valued, and being dependent upon others is often considered embarrassing; thereby, making you feel guilt.

My question to you is this….

What does success mean to you?

What success mean to you

Thinking about this topic, I started researching success stories. Every success story has a downside. The psychologist in me started to look for patterns. It is the patterns that give us the clues. Often, in our personal lives, it is the patterns that keep us stuck. These patterns cross generations, classes, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations.

Life has a peculiar way of kicking us in the “you know what”. When there is something you need to learn, something that you need to work on, the same situation will continue to repeat itself until you face it, and dedicate 100 percent of yourself to succeed in it.

Striving for success is like the movie Groundhog Day. Actor Bill Murry had to relive the same day over and over again. This in turn, allowed him to identify patterns and set up a course of action. Therefore, there are patterns to achieving success.

Even successful people fail. There are devastating failures all successful people experience. Here are three examples.

Examples of Failure All Successful People Experience

1. People will discredit you.

examples of failure

It is almost guaranteed that people are going to down-talk your capabilities. This makes achieving success especially hard, because of our individualistic culture.

We are wired to measure success by our ability to differentiate ourselves positively from the group. If the group is down-talking you (i.e. calling you a failure, saying that you don’t have what it takes), this can be interpreted as evidence indicating that you are a failure.

These stories and go on and on. There are plenty of examples of failure. My mother was told that she would never be good at math, but later became an engineer for North Group Grumman and Harris Corporation.

I was told that I am too quiet and would have difficulty succeeding professionally in any field by my sixth grade English instructor. I can proudly say that my career is still a work in progress. Two Master’s degree and a doctorate later, I have had the opportunity to fill some great positions. Now, I have my own business.

I challenge YOU to recognize the patterns. The pattern is that, someone that is close to you or someone that you look up to, will tell you that you are not good enough. They will tell you that you do not have what it takes.

Do not let those seeds take root. Do not internalize this negativity. You have everything that you need to fulfill your destiny or purpose. Do NOT take negative feedback as evidence of failure.

2. You will be fired or rejected before you succeed.

examples of failure

The universe has a way of steering your course. Being rejected from an opportunity is NOT the end the world. It is difficult to feel as though you are succeeding, if you are rejected.

Rejection will immediately trigger your threat system. It’s hard because it challenges your security. When you put yourself out there, show all of your vulnerabilities, put all your cards on the table, rejection will make you feel like a complete failure.

Think of that love interest. If you really like someone and they turn you down. What tends to happen? Well, you may start to question how good you look, what did you say wrong, and the list goes on.

Like I said: the universe has a way of directing your path. That ONE missed opportunity was NOT on your destiny path. That person you liked, may have not been the best fit for you. 

The pattern in this example is that rejection is a part of success. There are so many famous people who failed before succeeding. Oprah was fired from her first television job, nobody wanted to sign Jay-Z, Lady Gaga was dropped by her first record label, Island Def Jam.

Do NOT take rejection as evidence that you are not a success. Rejection is required to set you up for real success. Take from the examples of failure listed above.

Often, what we interpret as success is only half of the puzzle. The KFC guy, Colonel Sanders, was fired from dozens of jobs before founding a successful restaurant. Colonel Sanders’ story of failure teaches us that failure and being rejected go hand and hand.

Lady Gaga believed that Island Def Jam was her ultimate goal and road to music success. She cried about the rejection. We all cry, get down, and even become angry when we are rejected. These emotions are a part of our refinement process. Just remember that feelings change – and rejection is a part of the success formula.

3. Lastly, you will experience complete frustration.

examples of failure

Frustration is a devastating element of success. The frustration will come from not making enough money, not getting enough Likes on social media, not meeting your short term goals in the time frame that you set out, etc.

Frustration is a part of the pattern of success. I can’t think of anyone that did not experience a little frustration trying to reach their ultimate goals.

Let me tell you: when you take the road not traveled, it is bumpy, uneven, desolate and inclined. Chasing success requires that you dig deep to uncover those hidden strengths that you knew never existed. These strengths represent what you know about yourself that others do not.

Uncovering unforeseen strengths requires a bit of resistance. The frustration that you feel trying to move forward will uncover things about yourself that you never knew existed.

Painter Vincent Van Gogh was financially insecure and only sold one painting during his lifetime. Writer Stephen King was so frustrated trying to write the novel Carrie that he threw out the manuscript. Fortunately, his wife fished it out the trash.


Once again, our individualist culture emphasizes independence. Overcoming failure requires that you face adversity and resistance.

These devastating effects will cause a lot of pain. But through this, you can identify the patterns, learn, re-group, and find your path to success. Just be mindful that if you feel frustration, are rejected, or are discredited, these are examples of failure ALL successful people experience.

These experiences are not evidence that you will not achieve success. You have everything that you need to achieve your dreams. Dig deep, do NOT get discouraged, and remember that you may need to re-group and change your strategy.

You are NOT a failure. You are a success.

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