17 Life Lessons Learned from Failure

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”  — Henry Ford

I am a failure. In the truest sense of the word. I have failed repeatedly. And I’ll continue to fail. But as much as failure hurts. As much as it makes us want to scream in terror or run for our lives, it’s the source of life’s greatest lessons.

The truth? I have learned more from failure than I have from any other experience in life. No amount of parental upbringing, community guidance or peer-laden advice can take the place of lessons reaped from failure. None.

If you’ve failed yourself, then you know precisely what I mean. You learn. You grow. You mature. You become a better version of yourself. It happens naturally, gradually, and sometimes, suddenly.

But when you’re wading through failure, you’re not thinking about the potential lessons you’ll learned from one of life’s most violent and jarring internalized antagonists.  No. You’re thinking about the pain. Deep and unfathomable pain.

That might be why the fear of failure is oftentimes more painful than failure itself. Not only do we avoid it like it’s the plague, we quite literally stake our survival on it. And that’s the paradigm we all live by — avoid pain and seek pleasure.

However, there’s no greater good than failure itself. As odd as that might sound, as taboo as it might be in our society, if you’ve experienced heart-wrenching failure, and you’ve emerged onto the shores of hope, something inexplicable happens to you.

There’s an element of growth and understanding that simply can’t be experienced in any other way. The fact remains that the most successful people in the world have endured the greatest failures. But they never gave up. And that’s the trick.

Failure’s Enduring Life Lessons

In a recent conversation with Kent Clothier, a multi-millionaire real estate investor who endured a monumental fall from grace before recovering in an epic fashion, I learned that my personal experiences with failure, and its subsequent lessons, paled in comparison to his.

I’ve written quite often about failure. The utility that I’ve found in failing miserably has been invaluable in my progression as an entrepreneur and a compassionate human being. So when I came across Clothier’s story, I related wholeheartedly.

Of course, it’s one thing to write about failure and hear about some of the most famous people who’ve failed. But it’s an entirely different thing to get to know a person who has succeeded at the highest level after enduring such rockbottom lows.

At the age of seventeen, Clothier went to work for his father in the grocery business. They were buying and selling grocery items wholesale in bulk. By the truckload. It was arbitrage. They bought at a low price in one market, and sold at a higher price in another market. Buy low. Sell high. Rinse and repeat.

By the age of 30, Clothier was running a $1.8 billion business. But after a disagreement with his business partners, he walked away from it all, confident he could rebuild that business on his own. He couldn’t. And he found failure knocking at his door.

The $2 million he had left to his name slowly dwindled down over the course of the next 18 months. By the end of it, he was down to his last $4,000. That was it. Back against the wall. Nowhere to turn. One evening, while watching a late-night infomercial, he found the answer to his prayers. That answer cost him $1,000. 25% of his net worth at the time.

After purchasing a system that taught him how to flip real estate, he decided to apply his arbitrage technique. The results were explosive. After the first 18 months, Clothier netted $1 million. Today, he flips nearly 1,000 homes per month through his company Real Estate World Wide and has amassed an impressive wealth.

Better yet? He’s developed a real estate education platform that now teaches people how to use this exact method to flip contracts, with zero cash and no credit, by using this reverse wholesaling method. Now he’s arbitraged his way to become one of the biggest players in the house flipping game. But it wasn’t easy.

Clothier, like others who suffered monumental failures, used the experience, mending, molding and shaping him through life’s greatest lessons, to find a way to succeed. To the person committed enough, no hurdle is too great. No challenge is too overwhelming. You find a way to make it through. Period.

Failure certainly sculpts you. One way or another, it teaches you lessons in life that can hardly be garnered in any other way. For that reason, I would say to embrace failure. Welcome it with open arms. Allow it to make you smarter, faster, more aware of your surroundings, better prepared for the next round.

Although failure can teach you hundreds (if not thousands) of crucial lessons in life, there are just 17 core lessons that will help to make you a better person, more able to succeed on the next go around. And the better you can use the experience of failure to your advantage, the more able you’ll be to succeed in the long term.

#1 — It Humbles You

Failure is one of the most humbling experiences in life. It shatters the ego, forcing reflection and contemplation. And that humility allows us to search for new understandings and pathways towards achieving our dreams, allowing us to right the wrongs that resulted in failure in the first place.

#2 — It Forces You to Dig Deep

You are forced to dig deep when you fail. You’re forced to look within and identify patterns that might have caused you to fail in the first place. It’s through that analysis that new plans are born that allow us to move past obstacles that held us back in the past.

#3 — You Discover New Meaning

Failure forces you to discover new meaning in the face of defeat. You’re forced to contemplate your reasons for wanting things in the first place. Either it means enough to you to advance forward, or it falls short, forcing you to quit and give up. As Tony Robbins often says, meaning comes first, answers come second. 

#4 — You Become More Empathetic

It’s easy to have sympathy for others. It’s often because we feel sorry. But when you fail, and you experience those rockbottom lows, you can better empathize. You relate on a deeper level because you’ve been there, and that changes things in your mind, giving you more compassion.

#5 — You Become More Resourceful

One of life’s greatest lessons learned through failure is the ability to become more resourceful with what you have. You learn to search for the right resources to see things through. Oftentimes, this is through desperation rather than inspiration, but it has a lasting impact on the mind.

#6 — You Learn to Cope Better

Mentally, spiritually, emotionally and even physically, failure is debilitating. But through failure, you learn to cope. You become hardened and steadfast, able to see the proverbial forest through the trees. As the emotions come and go like waves lapping against the shore, you’re better able to let them simply roll off of you than to deeply affect you.


#7 — You Master Time Management

Time is life’s greatest equalizer. We all have the same amount of time no matter who we are. No amount of success or money or status changes that. What you come to realize through failure is that you have to manage your time or it will manage you. You implement effective time management strategies to instill efficiency and improve results.


#8 — You Become a Better Planner

Creating a massive action plan to achieve your goals is central to success. When you fail, one of the lessons you often learn in life is how to become a better planner. You don’t change your goals. You improve your plans. You refine your approach and find ways you can reach your goal by improving on past strategies and techniques.

#9 — You Revisit Your Habits

Habits comprise roughly 45% of our daily behavior, according to one study.  Through failure, you look at your habits in retrospect. You find ways you can eliminate bad habits and improve by adding good habits to the mix, allowing you to achieve your goals easier.

#10 — You Put Happiness Into Perspective

Through failure, one of the life lessons you learn is to put your happiness into perspective. You realize that happiness is a state of being and not a destination. You learn to look at things in perspective to understand that you can never arrive at happiness, only embrace it in the present moment.

#11 — You Learn to be Grateful

Something extraordinary happens when we fail. We realize that we have a lot to be grateful for. Even though we didn’t reach our goals, we’re eventually filled with a sense of gratitude for what we have rather than what we lack. It’s an important step in the overall journey.

#12 — You Handle Money Better

It’s easy to get into debt and abuse our finances. It’s simple to spend and not pay attention to where we are financially. But when we fail, one of the best lessons we learn is how to improve our finances. We get better at managing our money, saving and even investing.

#13 — You Learn to be Grateful

Something extraordinary happens when we fail. We realize that we have a lot to be grateful for. Even though we didn’t reach our goals, we’re eventually filled with a sense of gratitude for what we have rather than what we lack.


#14 — You Discover Your “Real” Friends

Although disheartening at first, when you fail, you realize who your true friends are. The so-called fake friends are there during the good times, but disappear when things go south. Knowing who you can rely on whether you’re flying high or failing is an invaluable lesson in life.

#15 — You Learn to Embrace Your Faith

Through failure, you learn to embrace your faith. You lean on your Higher Power, whatever that means to you today. Whether it’s God, Allah, Buddha or simply the universal oneness that binds us all. You turn to it. You allow it to comfort you. And it guides you through the pain.

#16 — You Seek Inspiration

After the pain of a failure has subsided, we often turn to sources of inspiration. We read, watch videos and search for answers by seeking others who have come before us to witness the struggles they had to overcome. This is one of the most powerful sources of motivation through the inspiring story of others.

#17 — You Learn to Stay Persistent

When you experience the rollercoaster ride of success and failure, you pick up on certain patterns of self-limiting behavior. This allows you to dig deep and create a persistent mindset. You learn to not take ‘no’ for an answer and actually keep pushing until you achieve your dreams.