Failure is an event, not a person

Merja Sumiloff
3 min readNov 10, 2020

Are you afraid of being a failure? Failure is an event, not a person. The only way to fail is by refusing to learn. Successful entrepreneurs fail forward.

If we knew we could not fail, what would we go for in life?

We tend to overestimate how much we can achieve in a day, but underestimate how much we can achieve in a year. Being prepared to fail forward keeps us on track and helps us achieve our goals on a faster time line.

Most people are afraid of failure. They believe that failing at something is the same thing as being a failure. But failure is not a person. Failure is an event, an opportunity to learn.

Thus, a person cannot be a failure. It doesn’t matter what their mother, father or teacher may have said. If someone has called you a failure, it’s because we have failed to fulfill their expectations of us. That’s all. Thus, that failure was an event, an occurrence, not a person.

Identifying as a failure leaves us stifled in life. It leaves us at the mercy of perfectionism, false impressions and a facade we cannot upkeep. This is particularly obvious in the age of social media. If we take others’ profile at face value, their lives seem perfect. It is far too easy to compare our imperfect life to someone else’s shiny facade. It is hard to break the pattern of comparison because we are afraid of being criticized, singled out or ridiculed, if we don’t measure up.

The irony is, that it is those pretending to have a perfect life are most often also trapped in the dynamic. They are self-critical, self-conscious and feel like they are always competing with others. They have not yet exercised their own muscles for failing forward, and thus rely on appearances to keep them going.

The biggest gift your personal development can give us is to build up the real you. The one who is strong enough, smart enough, lovable enough. The real you that has so much to offer both to yourself and to the world. Let’s give ourselves a permission to become a beginner once more. Let’s change the conversation from being a failure into failing forward.

Failing Forward is an active process. It is where we try something and it doesn’t work exactly how we imagined. Instead of chastising ourselves for failing, we learn from having taken action. When we put in place the learning and try again, we get closer to our vision or goal. Then, we try again, fail again and inch forward once more.

Change is hard. If you could ask a child who is learning to walk, they would tell you how hard it is. How many times do kids fall and get up again, so that they eventually learn how to walk? Nobody in their right mind would criticize or ridicule a child for not getting it right the first time! No-one with empathy and compassion would call that child a failure. So, why do we do that to ourselves?

This is an excerpt from our 4 People Within course. If you would like more information on this 6-month transformation journey, head on over here.



Merja Sumiloff

Integration Mentor, personality profiler, Founder of Sumiloff Academy of Human Integration