“If I hadn’t failed, I never would’ve figured out how to succeed.”
– Hercules, Once Upon a Time
Season 5, Episode 13, “Labor of Love”
It’s rather poetic for this to come from Hercules, the mightiest of the Greek heroes and demigods. Even he has known failure, and, as the heroes just found him in the Underworld when he says this, one may safely say it was a rather significant failure. It doesn’t get much worse than getting killed, ya know?
Now, while that is a level of failure we should certainly try to avoid, I like to think of it as an exaggeration. The hero faces the monster and dies, and suffers a long time alone. In fact, he’s been traumatized by his brutal death, unable to pick himself up. After failing so badly, he’s in a bad place, literally and figuratively. Then along comes an old friend, one who helps him pick himself up to try again, and stands by him as he faces his worst fears.
Having been so utterly defeated the first time, Hercules tries things a different way this time around. He was alone then, so, facing the three-headed dog Cerberus, he was left fighting all three heads on his own. When he attacked one, the other two would move in for the kill. But now he’s not alone anymore, he and his friends are able to attack all three heads at once. And thus they won the day.
Within his previous failure lied the secret to success.
That’s how it often is. If we first have the strength to survive failure, and if we have the resolve to pick ourselves up when we’ve fallen, then we can always try again. If we have the wisdom to learn from our mistakes, then we just might succeed the second time. Or the third, or fourth, or millionth. The point is that we should never stop living, never stop learning, and never stop trying.
Everybody fails from time to time, but those who succeed do so by learning from their failures.
It’s not dissimilar to Thomas Edison, who failed thousands of times at inventing the light bulb, but learned something new from each failure until he finally succeeded, and revolutionized modern society as we know it.
Try. Fail. Live. Learn. Try again.