Change Your Definition of Failure

Chirry Kim
5 min readAug 2, 2020


You never fail until you stop trying-Albert Einstein

How many of your books could be in the Amazon’s best sellers rank if you stuck to writing much longer? How many lives could have been saved if only you went ahead and published your medical research findings? How would your health look like if only you continued with your fitness regime? How would your finances look like if you tried again after your first business failure?

For a very long time, Nicholas Corpenicus refused to publish his initial research that the earth was round. It had been widely accepted truth that the earth was flat and any contrary opinion was would have been welcomed with a sneering look. The day the findings was finally let our of the bag, is the day when a whole new world of possibilities was opened up.

We, like Corpenicus may have experienced initial failures and critical comments from others who viewed our work as utter failure. The moment we are labelled as failures is the moment we feel that our reputation is on the line. The difference between the Thomas Alva Edison’s of today is in how we define failure.

For Edison, failure pointed the way by pointing what was not the way. Did you know that Edison’s first invention failed? Edison invented an electronic voting machine. He noted how it took longer for the lawmakers in the Massachusetts to vote since votes were written on a paper.

Edison’s maiden invention was painfully rejected by the lawmakers. The law makers were glad that the voting took longer as they could persuade others to change their vote before the voting was over. Edison, learnt something priceless from this experience - he would never again make something without making sure it was something people wanted. Edison, was named the Wizard of Menlo because of how he redefined failure in ways that enabled him to create and recreate revolutionary solutions.

The Wizard of Menlo, couldn’t possibly have earned the name Wizard if he had not redefined failure. Edison, did not fail, he discovered 1000 ways of how not to invent a light bulb.

The light bulb moment came for Ruth Babe, the legendary baseball player who set a record for most homeruns in season-714 homeruns. In the process of trying to get most homeruns, Babe also held the highest record of strike outs-what others would refer as failures. To be precise, Ruth Babe hit a whooping 1330 strike outs. He described one of his philosophy as follows: “How to hit home runs: I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball... The harder you grip the bat, the more you can swing it through the ball, and the farther the ball will go. I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”

Your hits, are in your misses. Your homeruns, are buried in your strike outs. Your light bulb moments, are tucked inside your seemingly dark paths, your financial freedom is enveloped in you next business venture. Your physical wellness is in your next plate of salad. Your purpose, is in your difficult life experiences. Your success is buried inside your failures. To become your own Wizard of Menlo, you need to recreate and redefine what failure is to you. Pause. Empty the glass that has held your definition of failure and pour in your magical ingredient that will stratospherically propel you to your success.

So how do you pause and keep the wheels moving when you are faced by hit outs, and bumpy roads? Carol Dweck, Sandford Professor and a leading psychologist in motivation, spent some time researching on why a group of students seem to thrive in the face of failure while others were crushed and bogged down by the same experience. Her findings, led her to the discovery of two mindsets-growth and fixed mindset, which play a very crucial role in how we define failure.

The students who had a growth mindsets, believed that failures did not define their abilities - their abilities were not cast on stones. They knew that they could study hard next time and go for success. The students with the fixed mindset believed that failures defined their abilities. It threatened who they were at the very core. It was final and fatal.

With a growth mindset, a failure in business idea is transformed to- I have not yet found a profitable niche. A failed book launch is transformed to- I have not yet found the right audience. A failure in math's test is transformed to -I have not yet understood the concepts. A failure in relationship is transformed to-I am yet to get my right partner. A failure in learning a skill is alchemized to- I am yet to learn the skill.

How you define failure will determine if you will continue pursuing your dreams or you will forever live in regret. Like the man in the arena, it is better to fail while daring greatly so that your place will never be with the timid souls who neither knows victory not defeat.


Redefine failure

Failure shows you the way by showing you what is not the way

Adopt a Not Yet mindset - growth mindset as opposed to fixed mindset