Would you like me to give you a formula for… success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all… 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’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.
~ Thomas Watson, IBM

Many of the most ‘successful’ people in history embraced failure as an integral part of their life story.  Here are some links and clips that I find particularly poignant and inspiring.  Please contribute links of your own at the bottom:

life = risk

I have failed over and over and over again in my life … and that is why I succeed
– Michael Jordan

To punish failure is yet another way to encourage mediocrity. Mediocrity is what fearful people will always settle for.
– Michael Eisner

failing is a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.  If you miss an opportunity to experience something new, you’ve already failed.
– Phil Van Hooser

failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently
– Henry Ford

Yoda: Do or do not, there is no try


Luke: I don’t believe it

Yoda: That is why you fail

failure topic comes in 6:30

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously, you might as well not have lived at all.  In which case, you fail by default.

– J.K. Rowling

Honorary inspirational icon of The Failure Club

38 Responses “Inspiration” →

  1. David Bomke

    July 31, 2009


    Nice site! It has long intigued me that we are offended by failure but cherish experience — even though most agree that our greatest experiences derive from our greatest failures. Thanks for the reminder that failure to give up is often the only barrier between failure and success.

  2. JK Rowling — author of Harry Potter and dollar-billionaire, on the “Fringe Benefits of Failure”

    However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.

    Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

  3. I started college after I had spent 12 years in the military. I attended National University, which is a “non-traditional” college. My very first class was Psych 101 with a wonderful instructor whom I still have contact with. I can still remember the first class session, Rusty asked how many of us were “older” and just starting college. A number of us were over 30 (I was 33). He said a few things intended to congratulate us on your decision to go back to school…but the one thing I remember him saying that day that has always stuck with me was….”Everything worthwhile is found on the other side of risk”…and “He who risks nothing, fails at nothing”. I went on to complete my degree, knowing how hard it was, with a 3.64 gpa.

  4. You should also add J.K. Rowling’s speech(just the part where she talks about failure). I didn’t realize how valuable failure was until i heard her speech. Here’s a link to the video—–>

    Here is the quote about failure from her speech—–> ” So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

    You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

  5. I’m grateful–and inspired–to have come across this. Thanks Philip /All! Accepting my failures as such is going to help me clarify and simplify my goals. Our society needs this perspective today. We stumble from one epic fail to the next, not realizing the huge opportunity to create something better on that foundation.

  6. I’d like to be a part of the handyman group

  7. Wow!! inspirational!! If we could gather confidence from our failures we might be amazed at the experience we have gained.

  8. There are very few inspirational stories that can match Dick and Rick Hoyt’s–you want to show someone who never gave up and never saw failure as an option with his son…this is it!

  9. Stumbled across this site today & am intrigued! I don’t remember my childhood “dreams” but as an adult, I am graduating with honors from university May 2012 at age 70. People ask me why? and what am I going “to do”? Right now, each day is a step forward!

  10. I just joined this site after watching a sample video. I couldn’t get all the video because my computer is very old but I got the idea loud and clear. But … why call it “The Failure Club”? Why not give it a modicum of success, why not have a title that encourages success rather than failure? Because failure is the likely outcome, and I still can’t figure out why that’s so motivating.

    Having failed at what I tried to do not one year ago, but 11 years ago, and at 57, I know very well what failure feels like. And it doesn’t feel good. How do people in this program feel good afterwards, since most of their dreams don’t succeed after a year? Why work so hard if you’re only going to fail — especially if you’ve failed multiple times and are older? It’s just the same-old, same-old.

    I’d love to do the program just to have a community around. My support system is all gone, their belief in me gone. Still … I’ll watch. I’m fascinated by the whole topic of following dreams. But I want to see someone make it, not just always fail.

    All the best,

  11. Earlier this year, I started a business-months later due to economic reasons, I had to tearfully, close my beautiful retail storefront. However, I do not fill like a failure because things didn’t work out this first time. I will try again and again until I have a successful business. If I give up-then I will be a failure.

    By, the way my family, friends and teacher co-workers praise me for following through on pursuing my dream of 30 years.(June 2010).

  12. This is in response to Ana-
    I believe you are missing the point of Failure, When I fail at something I learn and as I learn I increase my chances of success.
    If a person fails at something they are, at the very least, stronger, wiser, and farther ahead of the person that dreams yet never tries… And their chance of success is greater because they are gaining a perspective on what not to do next time around. By failing at something one may be brought closer to a new idea or actually succeed at something else. Take post-it-notes, they were invented as a result of a persons failure…

    Take the risk and live life; smile and meet new and exciting people, living in fear or spending your life watching others seems quite boring doesn’t it?


  13. SRMartin, thank you for your comments. I stand by what I said, though. Sorry, I just don’t see repeated failures as a sign that success is on the way. No matter how much you learn, if you lose everything as a result of a failure, and you are much older, the chances of getting anything back are not as good and you have less time. I see success, not failure, as motivating. They can be little successes first, then that motivates one to go for the bigger ones. Failure? Sorry, no.

    Why in the world should I join a club and put myself out there for a goal for an entire year if everyone knows it’s going to fail anyway??? How motivating is that?

    Also, even though you say most people will fail at their dreams, you talk as if, at the end, all outcomes are within your control. They are not.

    I’ve had it with failure. I’m ready for some success!

    • hello ana as a woman just about your age i’d like to ask you to put aside your age……’s irrelevant. also working on your goals for one year knowing failure is inevitable gets the failure out of the way and clears away everything but the essentials to move forward and continue with your goal. at our age we know one year isn’t that long! linear time is illusion – we have all the time in the world. all we have is each moment better to focus on something joyful than to give in to mediocrity. i’ve failed at so many things even in front of my kids but i won’t give up this is my life my one shot……..then it’s over in one exhalation.

      • GREAT advice and comment “Piaxlou”!! But unfortunately for Ana it IS her AGE that holds her back. Not the number but the ERA she was raised. Her generation, whether she’s on the cusp of being a Baby Boomer or being a part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”, It is the way she was raised and how she saw society as she aged. I know a lot of older people that have decided to go to college to ONLY achieve a Degree and then do nothing with it but just to say they have one. These same people look at me and hear my thoughts of trying to write a book or become a stand up comic since the recession has left me unemployed…again.. and these people think I am having a Mid-Life Crisis…umm no, I’m going through a RECESSION. I have started 2 careers in the last 10 years and have been laid off from both and have had to start over again…and at the age of 36 with a wife and kids…these jobs failed ME and now I am trying to CREATE a future using my OWN gifts….Ana’s generation is filled with nay-sayers and ARE the reasons behind their children not fulfilling their dreams because they were told to follow them until they became a young adult and then they tell them to just get a job and get married and have kids and then you can find happiness within that instead of allowing them to make mistakes and FAILURES so they can learn what they really want to do with their lives. WITHOUT FAILURE WE WOULD NEVER LEARN HUMILITY. It is SO important be humbled. ANA, you CAN NOT SUCCEED WITHOUT FAILURE!! If you embrace FAILURE as a friend instead of as an ENEMY you can get passed it smoother when it happens and then it wont have the same awful effect it seems to still have on you….hence the name “The Failure Club”.

  14. Thank you for this website. I saw it in Anderson Cooper and you have given me hope. I am recovering from a stroke I believe came on because of not living the life that corresponded with my dreams. I will check out the site and check back with you soon.

    “Today holds the moment that will shape the future so I will be brave enough to live it and love the fear into success!” Bonita Cotter


  15. Errin Taylor

    January 4, 2012

    I stumbled upon this site by accident and I truly believe it was meant for me to check this out.

    All my life I felt like a failure, from the time I was child, to becoming a divorcee at 29 years old. I have never really achieved anything I’ve set out to accomplish, and sometimes, it stings. I was born with a mild stutter and dyslexia, so that has made me too shy to formulate the words that I really want to say and feel. I even graduated one of the last people in my high school class (and a very very low g.p.a), even considering going back to school gives me such a high dose of anxiety. Because I feel like I am going to fail at yet another attempt to change my life for the better.

    Now at 31, I feel lost and at a loss with my life. But I have faith. Music, art, dance and literature are my passions. I want to pursue them, but I feel like I’m too old. I look back at my life and think I could have done these things and became a sucess story, but I have no idea where to start. I’m afraid. But I know I have to make it happen…somehow, someway.

  16. For Ana – we choose to look at life through our own mirror. I am 57. I failed at my dream in 2001. Who could have anticipated someone flying airliners into the Twin Towers? My customers became so full of fear that the need for my business became unessential. Rather than looking for resources, I assumed that no one would help me, loan to me, that I wouldn’t measure up because I didn’t have the capital to sustain myself through these troubled times to follow. I was 46 then and had set goals and planned my whole life. I’d studied and started, one step forward, two back and been stopped by road blocks (I never considered it “failure”) but seriously, planes into towers? So instead I got angry. And I closed up my dream and crawled into a den of depression so deep I could hardly breathe.
    I lived in a landscape of frozen fear which nearly ended me by my own hand so many times I cannot count. And then, something happened. After four years I “woke up”. It was so sudden. Literally, I caught my eye in a mirror and was captivated by the fact that I saw ME looking at me – – and out loud I said, “I’m back.”
    I am still afraid of the idea of failure even though I know I didn’t fail. Closing my business down wasn’t a failure – I see that my business was a dream come true. That is the power I have. I have the power to make my dreams come true. And that was what I really woke up to – losing one dream has only opened the doors for the next dream. How will I do it? What will it be?
    It has taken 6 more years of processing “me” and taking small steps, sometimes, tiny steps, just to breathe and then to get out of bed. But I do.
    I live my life in decades. This is an awareness brought to me in my process of dreams and failures. I am 57. If I don’t start the years will slip by and I will only be that much further from starting. If I start now there is a wonderful opportunity that when I am 67 I will be sitting on top of a dream come true looking back over the years greatful for each and every lesson I created for myself that led me to the “now”. I choose to begin this New Year as my New Decade. My dilemna? Which dream will I choose first? How will I decide? I am going to join the Failure Club.


  17. Lori Sisson

    January 4, 2012

    I recently set out on my own journey. I sold all I owned, packed what I couldn’t and moved to another country to finish my book.
    I wanted to share an inspiration with you, that mystically appeared among my scattered notes, 3 days before I was to embark. (When my real-time fears kicked in).. A tiny newspaper article from 1899
    Theodore Roosevelt, speech beforre the Hamilton Club, Chicago (April, 10, 1899)
    It is not the critic who counts: nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much becauise they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

    Theodore Roosevelt

    side note: I made it to Dublin, Ireland where I had a cottage paid for and waiting for me to settle in. However…Immigration refused my entry, so I came home to…well, nothing. Nothing materialistic. I did come home to my best friends waiting at the airport very late in the evening, with open arms and a warm cozy bed and lots of water to drink. I am going back! I have to!

  18. Hi again all!

    Let’s see … first to piaxlou: We do not have all the time in the world. We have only this moment actually. What I meant was that, common sense tells us you statistically have more time when you are younger. I know I probably have much less life left over than someone twentysomething. That’s all.\\

    Jim, I’m not only a boomer but I was born in its peak year. Almost every mantra on positive thinking started with us. The WWII “Greatest Generation” were our parents. So it was most definitely not my era that contributed to my current penchant for practical thinking. It was rather the class in which I was born.

    Actually, my own thoughts on practicality got a late start. Although people around me thought the way you said — that was why I’ve always had little to no support in following my dreams — my own thoughts are very recent. My latest failure, after decades of trying to achieve my dreams, has left me absolutely broke and completely stuck where I am. I want more than anything in the world to try again! Giving up was never in my nature. You don’t keep at it for 35 years without some kind of determination. But I’ve never, ever lost this much and I’m afraid I’m still somewhat shell-shocked.

    My friends and loved ones tell me I’m meant to be here and not meant to try again, as I have failed too many times so it must not be meant to be. Also, a very important point for my loved ones was that throughout my 10+-year odyssey, others were imposed upon and inconvenienced. You don’t impose upon others in following your dreams. I have no support left whatsoever.

    That’s what I meant by repeated failures. Others were affected, too. After this many years it’s time to stop burdening other people and concentrate, at least mentally, on success: go after things that are considered possible for someone in my position. Perhaps I can take more risks later if I manage to acquire some assets.

    In this life I’ve been “humbled” so many times over that the word just isn’t in my dictionary anymore.

    Anne: Why wait til you are 67? If you can do something, aim a little closer. You may or may not get to 67. If you do, hurray. If not, you’ll know you aimed sooner.

    Lori: I’m so sorry. That’s a hard one. But you hit on what I was referring to at the end: You had the support of friends when you had to come back. I have no one now as a result of failing too many times and burdening others.

    Concentrate on success, not failure. What I’m attempting now has a somewhat better chance of success within a year than what I was doing before. And if I do succeed … I’ll have the resources to go after that bigger stuff my life is really defined by.

    I’d join you in a minute if I wouldn’t have to go through the year constantly hearing the word “failure” when I need more than ever to program myself for success. Because after so many times, sorry for the chiche but … failure just isn’t an option anymore! 🙂

    Hugs to you all.

    • For me, Erma -Giving Up Isn’t An Option For Me. If, I passionately, want to do something, that will not only benefit me but others as well-I don’t give up easily. I will try and try again until I succeed in my quest.

      Efforts+Positive Thinking=Success

      An Effort can result in Success or Failure.

      Efforts can result in Success.


  19. naturegirl

    January 9, 2012

    So many get wrapped up in the end results, that they miss all the opportunities along the way (due to their tunnel vision.)

    So many base their “success” and/or “failure” on other peoples’ values and expectations. Instead of their own real plans. Instead of doing what they really, deep down want to do.

    Failure is fun because it makes you think a lot more, work a lot harder, and challenge yourself in ways outside of your comfort zone. Success is great but it also signals some kind of an end; some may stop working and thinking and trying once they’ve made it, some become obsessed with keeping the success, others become depressed at getting to the top or the end.

    Failure is never boring. Failure teaches people to find their true interests and abilities.

  20. Five years ago, just before my 50th birthday I realized friend’s my age were all acting older and accepting being middle age like it was a the end of everything good in life. I decided then to learn something new every year. I would spend the entire year doing it, even if I wasn’t any good at it and even if I didn’t really like it. I wanted the experience of learning and what that experience would do for me and teach me. The new skill would be good but the learning experience was the goal. I have learned to belly dance, inspite of being really self conscious about my body. I learned to paint with Chinese Water Color, an entire year on one painting, I am surprised, it’s harder than I thought…my picture is better than I thought. I have learned to work with glass, making art pieces, designing it, cutting it, fuzing in a kiln. I have learned to edit for fiction writers, I realize love doing this. I learned to do mediation through the county bar association. My learning has been slowed down some, I lost my teaching job 18 months ago and that has cut into my classes. Because of my job situation, I learned to do taxes professionally this year. One thing I have realized through all of this is, I use to be really creative, never worried about the out come, I just blazed ahead with my ideas, pretty much no fear. When the need to be successful in life became so important, it affected my ability to be creative. With others dependent on me, my career and family, I lost my fearlessness, therefore losing my creative side. I am considering going back to college as soon as I can figure out what I want to do for the next 20 years. My next fun class will be blowing hot glass as soon as I can make it work in the budget. Success is great, but failure is where you really learn the lessons in life and have the most fun I think.


  21. Patricia

    January 15, 2012

    I just bumped into this “Failure Club”. How exciting and inspiring! I started my own and didn’t even know it. I turned 40 last year and made myself a bet…to just try…a dream I have always had, but didn’t really tell anyone. I have been a home schooling stay at home mom for 10 years. I had started feeling like my life was passing me by. I have loved spending every waking moment with all 3 of my children. Being able to stay home was such a special gift from my husband. As all these questions started popping up. I bet myself I would do something, but not tell anyone. I started a second face book with my full name and found an agent…to start acting and modeling! I had no idea what I was doing. I put the children in public school and have been going to auditions. It was the most nervous I have EVER been in my life. My family and most of my friends still don’t know what I do. Even though I have had a full year and about 15 gigs on the books, I still feel I am not ready to tell. Watching these episodes on “Failure Club” made me smile!

  22. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”- S. Beckett

  23. Patricia, you are not failing then. You have gotten gigs. You are succeeding! Success isn’t just some end result; it means positive results for whatever it is you’re going after. Sure, there’s failure. There has to be. My take is that failure needs to be followed by success. I learn from the failures, but for motivation I concentrate on the successes.

    Congratulations on your new career!


    • Patricia

      January 16, 2012

      Thank you, Ana! My real failure was when I was actually asked by an elite modeling agency to join them. I was young and scared. I didn’t do it. Throughout the years I realized what I had done. I considered myself as a huge failure. Wished I could go back in time. But I would not have the confidence I have now. Certain things come with time. I must look forward.

      I have to go back and read your story. I’m sure you are pursuing your dreams.

      Your kind words mean have brightened my day 🙂


  24. Yes, Patricia, that was indeed a failure — in this case, an unnecessary one: you failed because you didn’t try. But you yourself admit you didn’t know then what you do now and perhaps it was meant to be that way. I’ve had lots of failures that way, too. Hopefully not too many more of those!

    Yesterday I had another failure but this one hopefully was for the best: I had to turn down a job opportunity that would have blessedly gotten me out of the factory … but it was for only 3 to 6 months. It was 5 minutes from my house and paid significantly more. I currently commute 40 minutes each way on a very low income. But I just couldn’t take the chance of being unemployed in a couple more months. Since I live literally paycheck to paycheck (nothing left over), I would have been rendered homeless and that’s one failure I might not have lived through. What I’m doing now is ongoing. So I had to turn down the new job and I nearly cried. I want so very badly to get out of this factory! I have a degree and years of experience and I’m stuck in a factory. So what just happened definitely feels like a failure and not one that teaches you anything.

    Back to you: Keep telling yourself you are succeeding, because you are!


  25. Mary Kay

    January 22, 2012

    I am so glad I found this site. It is comforting and reassuring know that there are others going through challenges just like you and that we have found a forum to vent our successes and failures….very inspirational. 2012 is my year to face my failures. I am 51 now, and it is now or never – time to stop avoiding opportunities that cause fear and embrase them and move forward. I think I have the potential to go farther than I ever thought I could. Thank you guys for your posts…I learned something.

  26. OMG, you’re 31 and you think you’re too old????? Maybe for the dance, perhaps … but for the others you still have plenty of time for fabulous success! Start with classes if you haven’t already, and concentrate on developing your skills, as long as it takes. If it’s your passion then you’re half way there.

  27. What an inspirational article l took some notes for future references. Despite my failed attempts to start a shoe business l am going to keep trying.

  28. Great site and an awesome show on yahoo. Only wish it was longer segments and daily, though twice a week is good.

    And great collection of videos here, the first one is a classic.

  29. I love failure club and all the wonderful people on the yahoo show! It’s been so inspiring! The only thing I want to comment on…is that the show used to be much longer and much more in depth/detail. Now it’s more like a long commercial for each episode! Change it back! I LOVE learning from their mistakes, their growth, and their joys! I wish everyone well! Thanks for sharing your lives with us all!


  30. Garret Merriam

    August 3, 2012

    I gave a talk a few years back called “In Praise of Failure”. It seems like it’s very much simpatico with Failure Club. You may want to check it out.


  31. Erma Jones

    August 6, 2012

    Quote, “A Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an Optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”–Winston Churchill

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