Success Is Not Final, Failure Is Not Fatal

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill

John’s two-year old son slept silently in the old beat-up car that he now called home. This is what his life had come to. Homeless. Penniless. Hopeless. But he refused to ask for help. He was too proud. So he suffered that plight on his own, watching his son sleep, replaying all his worst fears and nightmares across his mind.

Rubbing a tear from his eye, he shifted into survival mode. That evening, he headed out in search of glass Coke bottles he could cash in for their redemption value at the corner drugstore. That was his only means of surival. That was the only way we was able to feed the hungry soul that was relying on him.

It wasn’t much. But it was enough to keep them alive on a diet of rice, potatoes, lettuce, cereal, canned soup and macaroni and cheese. An odd job would spring up from time to time, giving him a little bit of extra cash to pad his pockets with. It didn’t matter what kind of work it was. He was willing to do anything from fixing bikes to pumping gas. Anything to make ends meet.

That evening, after returning to the car he called home, he wept inconsolably. He hadn’t seen it coming. He cupped his hand over his mouth in an effort not to wake his son but it was too little too late. His son’s eyes fluttered and his heart skipped a beat. He was a failure. A complete and utter failure and all hope was lost.

Thoughts of ending it all flashed across his mind. But he knew he couldn’t do it. He had to fight. He had to give it all he had. He couldn’t give up with a little life depending on him. He had to grit and bear it and that’s exactly what he did. He prayed that night harder than he had ever prayed before.

He wasn’t asking for anything fancy. All he wanted was enough to get by. All he wanted was a respectable life for himself. Not this. Not homelessness. Anything but that. He just wanted a place he could call home, some money to pay the bills and put food on the plate. That’s all.

He had no idea how he was going to go from a failure in life, to succeeding. He just knew that he was going to do it, no matter what the costs.


This is the story of John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell Hair, a now-billion-dollar company. I recount this story because of the sheer power of determination and resilient will that resides in the human spirit. When we fail, we discover new meaning to our lives, forcing us to reach deep to find solutions to the problems that have plagued us for ages.

As a result, we can achieve outlandish goals. DeJoria went from being a complete failure and feeling dejected in life, to attaining the wildest success that one could ever imagine, with a net worth surpassing $4 billion. But imagine how it felt for DeJoria that night in his car, struggling for survival, fearing for his two-year old son. Homeless with nearly no money in his pockets, the desperation to pull himself out of the gutter must have been intense.

But DeJoria’s story isn’t unique. Plenty of successful and famous people have succeeded after major amounts of failure. Clearly, failure isn’t fatal. If it was, then no person who ever failed before would succeed in their lives. And we all know that isn’t true whatsoever. But the same thing applies for success. Success isn’t final because it might not last. In fact, success is often fleeting, here one moment then gone the next.


Failure Is Not Fatal

I know that it’s easy to get discouraged by failure. At first glance, when we’re going through the massive amounts of pain associated with failure, it can seem cataclysmic and fatal. As the walls come crashing in and your world comes crumbling down right before your very eyes, there’s little that anyone can do to offer hope in those darkest hours.

For DeJoria, a man who had only a few pennies to his name, failure wasn’t fatal. In fact, it was hitting rock bottom and being penniless and homeless that likely propelled him with the determination and persistence to achieve his goals. Something sets in when you fail in a major way like DeJoria did, or like anyone has that’s achieve monumental success.

The fact is that we spend so much time being afraid of failure, when in fact we need to welcome it. We need to embrace failure with open arms because it does far more to serve us than it does to hinder us. Failure allows us to reach new understandings, bridging mental divides that we once couldn’t fathom. Plain and simple, it’s quite possibly the most important tool in a successful person’s arsenal.

The truth? Life’s what you make of it. Whatever you focus on, will surely manifest itself. You can allow failure to be fatal. Sure. That’s clearly obvious. Just look at the person who’s entirely given up in life because they failed, turning instead to some sadistic measure of self-therapy through drugs or alcohol or gambling, or anything else for that matter, and you’ll see how failure might seem fatal.

But most people don’t entirely give up after failure. Sure, they have to go through the stages of grief associated with failure. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all part of the learning process associated with failure. But it’s that last and final stage, where they accept their failure and use it for good, when the real magic starts to happen.

They embrace failure. They don’t take it as the final nail in the coffin. It isn’t fatal. It’s just beginning. Failure is the starting line, not the finish of the race. Through failure, you reach new understandings and realizations about what it’s going to take to succeed. Henry Ford once said that “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” That’s all. You just start again, but this time, with a different approach and more knowledge behind your belt.


Success Is Not Final

The most disheartening part about failure is that most of us are fixated on success. We’re so obsessed with succeeding, that we compromise our values just to get ahead. We don’t care what it takes. We only care about winning. Clearly, not everyone thinks this way, but most people do.

The problem with that mentality is that you can enjoy success briefly, but it won’t last. It won’t stick around for long. That success won’t be final and it won’t be long-lasting. But it’s all part of the learning process. It’s all part of how life works in mysterious ways to guide us in the direction we’re intended to travel.

But reaching those fundamental understandings about success and failure can only come through time. It’s part of the meaning of life. We’re meant to discover those things. We’re meant to reach these epiphanies in life in order to focus on the right things rather than the wrong things.

The reason why Winston Churchill once said that, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal — it is the courage to continue that counts,” was because it does take true courage to keep pushing forward. Especially in the face of failure. Especially when you were succeeding in the past and you’re no longer succeeding anymore. It takes lion-hearted courage to push forward. But that’s precisely what you must do in order to truly succeed.

I’m not talking about the superficial kind of success that we might all experience at one point or another. I’m talking about true success that comes from building or creating something that ultimately improves the world and the lives of those in it. Similar to what iconic entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did.

However, if you’ve failed before, clearly you understand the pain that’s associated with failure. Massive pain is a hallmark of failure. I know, because I’ve been there repeatedly. I never liked failure. I never liked the feelings associated with it. I would cower and run from the mere thought of it if I hadn’t come to the understanding of its powerful benefits and invaluable lessons that came along with earth-shattering failure.

But the thing about failure is that it truly isn’t fatal. The only time failure could be fatal is if you decide to completely give up. When you refuse to give up, it’s just a road block. It’s just something that’s standing in your way, keeping you from succeeding. And even when you do taste the sweetness of victory, it isn’t final as well. Success won’t last forever, especially if you don’t treat it kindly and respect it.


On Success and Failure

If you’ve learned anything about me from reading these posts or any of my books, you’ve learned that I’ve failed miserably. That knife was stuck inside my chest and twisted around and around. Did it hurt? Sure. Would I take them back and do it all again if I had the chance? Never.

I’ve learned more from failure than I ever have from anything else. The ego-shattering nature of failure allows you to do that. When you succeed, that doesn’t happen. When things are handed down to you your entire life, you can never gather the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical capacities it takes to achieve something monumental. It seldom happens that way at least.

Another thing about success, especially when we’re talking about financial success, is that it amplifies your character. Success doesn’t necessarily change a person’s true character, it just brings certain things to light. The problem is that we’re all flawed human beings. Unless you’ve grown up around money and have always had it in your life from generations of being passed down, you’ll likely not know what do when that proverbial windfall occurs.

When that windfall happens, the feeling of momentary bliss is fleeting and you become afflicted with something called Sudden Wealth Syndrome. For someone who’s never been around money their entire life, and it’s suddenly in their lives, it can have a very detrimental affect. From lottery winners to those that receive large inheritances, much of it gets spent into oblivion.

The fact is that many of lack a financial education. Not because we didn’t pay attention in school. It’s because they don’t teach it in school. That’s why most lottery winners go bankrupt shortly after their winnings. One study by the National Endowment for Financial Education determined that the rate was 7 out of 10 of every lottery winner files for bankruptcy within a few short years of their supposed good fortune.

Robert T. Kiyosaki’s, Rich Dad Poor Dad, a book that many people are familiar with, and that describes the plight of the average working joe pitted against the wealthy, clearly chronicles how poor financial education seeps its way into society, affecting every decision and basic understanding of the fundamentals of how money seems to works.

Whether you want to call this a conspiracy or simply miseducation, the fact of the matter is that most people are left in the dark. They base all their financial decisions on sudden and deep-down urges to buy. We’re consumers at heart, but the rich play off this mentality, keeping us locked into a vicious cycle of debt that never seems to end.

So, when a person does actually receive a windfall of cash, they have no idea what to do with it. They go on a spending spree. They fail to calculate and misjudge the fact that the money can easily run out. As you’ve likely already come to find, it’s very easy to spend money but not so easy to make it. When we fail to treat money with the respect that’s necessary, it can completely ruin our lives.


So What’s The Right Approach?

Okay, so success clearly isn’t final. That lottery winner will attest to that. And failure isn’t fatal because any of the millions of people who’ve achieved wild success can tell you that much. So what’s the right approach? What’s the right way to act and behave? How can we achieve our goals without getting so discouraged along the way?

Simply put? Life really is like that proverbial box of chocolates. You never actually know what you’re going to get. Anything can happen. We can get knocked down, kicked, punched and dumped on all day long. We can go through torment, pain and depression on a constant basis. Bad things can and will happen. And it will happen often.

However, life is also what you make of it. Failure isn’t fatal when you look at it the right way. When Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, set out at the age of 62 with only a $105 social security check and a chicken recipe to his name, clearly he knew that his past failures weren’t fatal. Even though he had failed repeatedly.

It’s all about how you respond to life. Everything is in the response. Everything is in how you look at the events in your life. If you take them a certain way, you’ll feel one thing. If you look at them the other way, you’ll feel another thing. So? You have to take things with a grain of salt. Don’t play the victim role. Look to your faith and your higher power. And realize that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Literally anything.