Success and failure are two sides of the same coin. Everyone who has achieved success has experienced failure along the way. It doesn’t matter if you are a technology pioneer, an international sports phenom, or an entertainment magnate, failure happens to those willing to risk it all for that big win. Learning about how successful people have failed serves as an inspiration to risk it all and not be afraid of failure. It has also helped me understand that failing can still be a sign of progress.

“His Airness”

Whether you are passionate about basketball or a fan of pop culture, you are well aware who is most famous for wearing “23” in basketball. Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) in basketball, but even “His Airness” has failed time and time again. But that’s what made him great.

As a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, Jordan was a mere 5’10” and was incapable of dunking a basketball. He tried out for his varsity basketball team, but failed to secure a spot on the roster. This gut-wrenching blow drove Jordan to tears later that same evening. Jordan being relentless, turned his devastation into motivation. Whenever he would get tired during his high school workouts, he would visualize the varsity team roster without his name on it to give him that extra push.

Michael Jordan’s famous free-throw line dunk. Source Getty Images

After being drafted 3rd overall by the Chicago Bulls for the 1984-1985 season, it took Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 6 seasons before they would win a championship. On top of that, the road to the NBA Finals was no walk in the park. The Detroit Pistons were the long-time eastern conference rivals of the Chicago Bulls and they decimated Jordan and his team in the playoffs 3 seasons (1987-1990) in a row. However, during the 1990-91 season, the Chicago Bulls were finally able to conquer the Detroit Pistons, becoming the Eastern Conference Champions, and earned their first appearance in the NBA Finals. In typical Michael Jordan fashion, he led his team to 6 NBA Championships, by winning 3 times in a row…twice.

Michael Jordan with his 6 championship rings. Photo from sneakerhistory.com

Michael Jordan was relentless; he worked harder than everyone in the league, was blessed with amazing athletic ability, had an unmatched “killer instinct” on the court, and virtually perfected the game of basketball. Yet, he failed over, and over again. In fact, he has lost almost 300 games, missed over 9000 shots and missed the game-winning basket 26 times. But, according to Jordan, that’s why he succeeded. His insatiable drive and work ethic combined with his willingness to go one-on-one with failure were the perfect recipe for achieving basketball immortality.

The Original “Imagineer”

The Walt Disney Company is an entertainment giant that is known for its award winning animated films, magical amusement parks, and relaxing resorts is also considered to be the most recognizable brand in the world. Classic features like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Cinderella,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” were produced by Walt Disney Pictures, a subdivision of The Walt Disney Company. Over the years, Walt Disney Pictures has had tremendous success, amassing a collection of over 80 Academy Awards.

It is hard to imagine Walt Disney being known for anything other than his Disney empire, but before Disney, there was “Laugh-O-Gram Studios.” Laugh-O-Gram Studios was Disney’s first stint at owning and operating an animation studio. Unfortunately for Disney, Laugh-O-Gram Studios went bankrupt because the investing firm went bankrupt as well. Luckily for the rest of us, Disney was able to gather just enough money for a bus ticket to Hollywood.

The success of The Walt Disney Company started with Disney’s animation vision. However, Disney’s dream did not stop there. He wanted to expand to the amusement park industry. Today, The Walt Disney Company has 11 amusement parks and resorts in 4 different countries. And to think it all started in Anaheim, CA.

Disney parks and resorts are located in the USA, France, China, and Japan. Photo from aboutdisneyparks.com

I have been to Disneyland numerous times in my life. I have attended the park when the wait times for rides were virtually nonexistent and when the park has reached maximum capacity. Despite the varying degrees of chaos and occupancy, one thing is consistent; Disneyland operates like a well-oiled machine. However, on its opening day, over 60 years ago, Disneyland was a far cry from being the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

“Black Sunday,” as it is dubbed by some Disneyland employees, was plagued with what seemed like every amusement park failure possible. On that dreadful Sunday in 1955, rides broke down, traffic was disastrous, the park was running out of food, counterfeit ticket sales doubled the attendance, and to top things off, there was a water shortage on that scorching 101o F day. Now, 60 years later, Walt Disney’s dream that could have bankrupted his film studio, handles over 18 million annual attendees without a hiccup and lives up to its title of the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

The iconic statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. Source Disney Parks Blog

My thoughts on failure

All of these failures turned out to be legendary success stories. They are results of taking gargantuan risks for a vision that was worth fighting for. As I mentioned earlier, I look to these stories to help rid my fear of failing.

Take this blog for example: it’s rudimentary at best, my writing style needs improvement, and I need to develop my knowledge on online marketing and the blogging business. Launching this blog forced me way out of my comfort zone, because writing is my weakest form of communication. Before I publish each piece, there is a wave of anxiety that surges through my body. I agonize for hours over the words I type out, the sentence structure, and the flow of my ideas. My goal for curating a weekly blog post is already proving to be quite a task.  

I’ll admit that I have not failed many times in my life, mostly because I have not taken huge risks. I believe I have played it safe thus far in my life because I lack a vision. I am still searching for a calling that I believe in so strongly that I am am willing to sacrifice everything I have for that dream’s success. I have not fully developed my vision for this blog, but I know that I want these stories and my experiences to inspire others. While there are tons of highly detailed “how-to” manuals for running a successful blog, I will be operating it on my own. Could this fail? Probably, and that’s what scares me. I have this idea that I should always be progressing forward or upward in all aspects my of life, and failure to me is the complete antithesis of that progress.

The good news is that. as I learn from others’ success stories, my view of failure is changing. I am beginning to look at failure as my lifelong teacher. Failing to me now means that my specific methods did not work. Is it guaranteed that if I change up my approach, I will achieve success? No, definitely not. However, I am certain that I have to take the risk and keep trying.

What are ways that you failed and how have they resulted in success?