Failing Versus Failure: Understanding The Difference Is Key To Achieving Your Goals

It’s pretty safe to say everyone, and I mean everyone, at some point in their lives have been afraid of failing. No one likes it, and if we’re honest with ourselves we try to avoid it on some level.


The fear of failing used to cripple me. As a matter of fact I was terrified of it. For the longest while I had a fear of criticism, and that’s why I was afraid to fail. I was afraid of being criticized for looking bad, or seeming incompetent for not knowing what I was doing or talking about.


There were several opportunities at a very young age I missed out on because of this fear, and looking back I wish I had taken them. From when I was asked to be the captain of my hockey team in high school. Afraid to ask the girl I had the biggest crush on in prep school out. It was so bad that I once bought a silver bracelet for her and never gave it to her (even to this day). Even as an adult, being asked to lead a business team (to which I refused).


For some reason I always seemed to be afraid to put myself out there, and risk failing.


There was one moment in my life that changed all that forever. That made me realize that failing wasn’t as bad as we may think. That made me realize that Fail-ING isn’t the same thing as Fail-URE.


A Story of Failing

It was 2011, I had just started my gourmet hot beverage business. My mentor at the time and I were traveling to present to a group of business professionals about partnering with us in our venture.


I was pretty calm, pretty relaxed, after all I wasn’t going to be the one doing the talking. As we slowly pulled into the parking lot and parked the car, got out, and began our steps towards the room where we were to present, something absolutely unexpected, and mind-numbingly terrifying happened.


My mentor turned to me, and without any notice said, “Oh by the way Winston, you’re doing the presentation.”


That statement stopped me dead in my tracks. My legs fell weak, my eyes filled with terror and shock, and my mouth completely wide open. A bug could have flown in and I wouldn’t have cared. My heart stopped, no pulse. Yet, it beat so fast I could hardly hear myself think. I think at one point I began suffocating. The air was coming in, my brain just couldn’t process the act of breathing in that moment.


When you understand that public speaking is the number one fear among most people, even more than dying, then you understand why my body reacted the way it did.


The problem with her statement was I had never done a presentation before. Yet, she threw me into the deep-end of the water, and expected me to swim.


My initial thought was, “This woman must be out of her damn mind!”


However, because she was my mentor I did as she said. I went up, knees still shaking, and me sweating all over. I barely made eye-contact with anyone in the audience, and I loss count after the 15th time of how many times I bumped into the table, nearly knocking over the laptop.


At the end of it guess what I noticed? I was still alive. I hadn’t died, maybe almost passed out, but hadn’t died.


I realized it wasn’t as bad as I initial thought. As a matter of fact, table bumping and nearly fainting aside, I did better than I expected.


In that moment of praises from my mentor I made a decision to work on my presentation skills. Every chance I got to make a presentation I assessed everything:

  • How was my introduction?
  • How was my delivery?
  • How was my posture and tone?
  • What did I say that the audience responded positively to?
  • What did I say that seemed to turn them off?


Furthermore, after each presentation I went up to others and asked them how I did, and what do they believe I could do to improve my approach. I even went as far as reading books on how to better connect and engage with my audience, and implemented them in my presentations. Everyone Communicates Few Connect by John Maxwell was the winner for me.


Fast-forward 4 years later from that time, and I’m standing at the front, rocking the room, giving jokes, and have the entire room excited and engaged in my presentation. Afterwards, people would walk over to me and tell me how much they loved my presentation. I was caught off-guard most of the time, because I know how terrible I did on my first one. I know how much of an introvert and reserved I am by nature, and typically avoid public speaking. I’m not a big fan of being at the front of a room. Yet here I was being commended for my presentations, and to be honest, feeling pretty damn proud of myself.


It was in that moment I realized, failing isn’t as bad as I may have thought. Failing doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, it’s just an indication that I need to work on it some more to get better at it. Most importantly, Fail-ING isn’t the same as Fail-URE.


The reason I went through the task of telling you this very elaborate story is to put what I’m about to talk on into context.


You will think that failing for you is the end of the world, and so you have to try and avoid it at all costs. It’s understandable. That’s why in this post I hope to give you a different perspective that can maybe help you. To see failing as something good for you, not bad, that helps you grow and inevitably achieve your goal. Also, to understand the difference between Fail-ING and Fail-URE.


The Difference Between Failing and Failure

To get straight to the point here’s the main differences between the two:

  • Failing is temporary. Failure is permanent
  • Failing leads to success. Failure eliminates the chance of success
  • Failing helps you become better. Failure cripples your true potential
  • Failing develops self-esteem and confidence. Failure crushes self-esteem and confidence


Failing is Temporary Failure is Permanent

Failing being temporary is the main thing that separates it from Failure.


Many people view Failing as something that’s permanent. Something that once experienced, it’s lasting and as such they will forever fail. However, it is not.


Failing only lasts as long as you allow it to last. Meaning it will last based on how long you allow yourself to dwell on the fact that you failed. If you learn to accept it as a part of the process to achieving your goal, you can move on quickly from it. If you see failing to mean that you’re a failure, you will dwell on it for a long time.


You can fail many times at attempting the same thing or the same goal. However, just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean you’re a Failure.


Failure, on the other hand, is permanent. It’s a matter of perspective, and how you choose to view things when you’ve failed. Failure means you have accepted that achieving your goal is impossible for you, and it will never happen no matter how hard you try.


Whatever you believe to be true, becomes true for you. Accepting that when you fail it is temporary allows you to move on from it quickly. However, thinking that because you failed means you’re a failure will forever keep you stuck.


Solution: Change your perspective to see each time you fail as something temporary that won’t last, and that just because you failed now, doesn’t mean you will fail forever.


Failing Leads to Success Failure Eliminates the Chance of Success

This follows up with the point about accepting what you believe to be true.


When you fail how do you see it? Do you see it as an inevitable part of the process to success, or do you see it as a roadblock keeping you from success?


This is a very important question to ask and answer for yourself. If you see failing as a part of the process that leads to success, then you’ll never give up. You’ll always be looking for new ways, approaches, and methods of trying to achieve your goal (even if the last ten times hadn’t worked). You know it’s only a matter of time until you find the way that works for you.


This ability to always search for, and try new ways of accomplishing the same goal inevitably leads to success in what you’re trying to achieve. Success is merely eliminating all the ways that doesn’t work until you find the way that does work, and works best for you (very important).


However, if you have accepted failure, and that no matter what you try it will never happen for you, then what you have done is closed your mind from seeing any possibility of finding what works to achieve your goal.


Solution: Each time you fail see it as just an indicator that the way you tried just doesn’t work, and that if you keep trying different approaches eventually you’ll get to the one that works.


How I did this was thinking of each approach as being on an assembly line. I would try one approach and if it didn’t work I would discard it, and try another on the assembly line.

Failing Helps You Become Better Failure Cripples Your True Potential

To explain this point I want to get into a bit of vocabulary. Take a minute to analyze both words. Both stem from the word FAIL, however the suffix (the ending of the word) is different. Fail-ING means the process is ongoing and is still happen, Fail-URE means that the process is finite and has ended. This means accepting Fail-URE indicates it’s all over, you’ve lost. Fail-ING means you’re still playing the game, even if you aren’t winning right now.


The reason it was important for me to explain this is because of the next point.


Failing helps you become better because each time you fail at achieving your goal, and keep going, you not only learn what doesn’t work to discover what does, but you also learn a lot more about yourself. As long as you keep pushing forward, you’re able to realize what you’re truly capable of.


In my story I mentioned how horribly I did on my first presentation. In that moment two things could have happened:

  1. I could have decided I sucked at presenting and therefore decide never to attempt it again (Failure)
  2. I could have decided that even though I sucked so badly, I could keep working on it and on myself until I became better at doing it (Failing)


Evidently, I decided to do the second. Since I was able to push through failing and keep working at it, I eventually got to the point I became very good at presenting. In other words failing (and not giving up), eventually led to me becoming skilled at it.


The more mistakes you make, and are willing to learn from and keep going, the better you inevitably become. The better you become, the more you’re able to tap into your potential of what you believe you have the ability to make happen.


If you accept failing to mean that you are incapable of moving beyond your current limits, then you won’t be willing to push through who you are now to become the better version of who you can be.


Solution: See failing as a learning process and you’re a work of art still being created. Each time you fail see it as a chance to learn more about yourself and what you need to improve on to get better. Then once you’ve identify what it is, spend all your time and energy working on that one area until you’re satisfied enough with your improvement.

Failing Develops Self-esteem and Confidence Failure Crushes Them

Continuing from the last point, one of the greatest differentiators of Failing and Failure is that Failing helps to develop your self-esteem and confidence.


When you fail at something, yet you have the courage to still push through it, it reinforces to yourself (and subconscious), that even when it’s tough, you’re still willing to push through. I have noticed a direct correlation between commitment and confidence. I have seen it with myself, and others I’ve worked with.


For some strange reason as human beings we feel good about ourselves when we overcome the odds that are stacked against us, even when we haven’t achieved the goal we’re after just yet. It develops a winning identity, which directly affects our self-esteem and confidence.


Here’s how it works:

  • You attempt to achieve a goal
  • You realize it’s much harder than you had anticipated
  • You question whether or not you want to endure the pain of continuing to push through
  • You make the decision to push through
  • You made it through and overcame the adversity


Steps of Failing to Success


In that moment of overcoming what you thought was insurmountable, you realize that you’re much stronger than you thought. You realize that maybe you have greater power within you to do the impossible than you thought. What seemed difficult before now seems achievable. This boosts your self-image (how you see yourself), which increases your self-esteem (how you feel about yourself), and improves your self-confidence (what you believe about yourself).


On the other hand, Failure does the opposite. When you decide to quit on your goal because it became too difficult it changes how you see yourself negatively. Suddenly, you begin to see yourself as quitter because you quit, and as such you begin to internalize that self-image. Following the same pattern, instead of it having a positive effect like developing greater self-confidence, it crushes you by having you believe you’re not good enough because you quit.


If you’re not careful this can be very detrimental to how you see yourself in other aspects of your life as you create an Identity of Failure. You begin to believe that you’re a failure, and as such that you’re destined to fail at anything you attempt. This identity then creates your reality, and becomes a self-fulling prophecy because you believe it.


Solution: Each time you fail see it as a brick wall for you to run through, and each time you run through that brick wall (not quitting and keep going), you’re becoming a stronger, better, more confident version of yourself.


Go as far as celebrating that you didn’t give up, because deep down inside you know you’re a winner.


“A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits”.



The main thing to understand in what differentiates Failing from Failure is a matter of your perception, belief, and what you choose to do once you’ve failed.


You can decide that when you fail it means that your goal cannot be achieved, it isn’t meant for you to achieve it, and you’re not good enough to achieve it, and then quit (Failure). You can also decide that when you fail it simply means that the approach you took wasn’t the right approach to achieve your goal, you learned from the experience about your approach and yourself, and make the commitment to keep pushing forward and become better each time you fail, until you succeed (Failing).


Ultimately, it’s what your belief tells you about the situation when you fail, and what you accept as true that determines which is which. You can be down BUT not out, or you can decide to give up and abandon your vision for a better life.


The choice is yours.


To your success my friend!


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