Failures: The stepping stones to success

As Winston Churchill once pointed out; ‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’. Today, the attitude of the young generation is pitiable. They are so intoxicatingly obsessed with success that they are disheartened with slightest of failures and frustrations. Students even choose to end their lives when they fail in the exams or competitions. We have read the news of youths who committed suicide for not getting a loan from a bank or for not getting a new mobile. The suicide rate is increasing alarmingly in our country. Our youngsters are unable to face failures and frustrations in life. They cannot tolerate even a trivial disappointment. It is estimated that the frustration-tolerance level has come down drastically among youth. Who is to be blamed for this?

Parent’s Role

Nowadays parents are very much concerned about their children’s future. They work hard and earn money for them. They spend money lavishly for fulfilling the desires and demands of their children, meeting their needs as well as greed. Parents are so eager to ensure that their children are free from frustrations or failures. So the children never have an experience of even a minor disappointment. They are not punished or even reprimanded for their mistakes, either in home or school.

When these children come to real life they have to face difficult situations, their desires and ambitions may not be fully fulfilled. They may have to sometimes meet with failures and rejections. But they are not at all prepared for overcoming such real-life situations. They cannot get to the ground realities and hence they run away from life desperately. So, what is the solution for this? The only remedy is to enhance the frustration- tolerance level of the children. Let them have the taste and experience of frustrations and failures in life. Let them face adversities and difficulties. As the experience of success enhances their confidence, the painful shock of failure will make them inwardly stronger and develop their ability to challenge the difficult situations in their life. They will learn to turn the adversities into advantages, failures into fair opportunities for fast growth.

Success through failures

In history, great winners are those who have gone through the biggest failures. They did challenge failures and frustrations; they transformed adversities and sorrows into successes, oppositions into opportunities, weakness into strength. We can see a great number of such cases in history. Some inspirational examples are worth mentioning. 

  1. J. K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the author of the best selling Harry Potter series and regarded as one of the most successful women in the world. In her famous commencement address at the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, she talked about her failures and agonies she had to face in the early years of her life. After graduation she was jobless, her marriage was broken, she became a lone moneyless mother struggling to bring up her child. The novel she wrote was rejected by a good number of publishers. She was so depressed that she even thought of committing suicide.

 ‘By every usual standard I was the biggest failure, I knew’, Rowling confessed. ‘Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way’, she continued. ‘I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I had suspected,’ In short, failures transformed her, strengthened her and led her to the greatest success. It is in the red-hot furnace that iron gets transformed into pure steel.

  1. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, agreeably the greatest scientist of all times, was once considered a failure. During childhood, he had speech difficulties. He had very poor grades in school. His teachers considered him as mentally retarded and incapable of learning. He failed in the admission test to Zurich Poly Technique. But he managed to get admission in the second chance. He later got his PhD in Physics. He was honoured by the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. He once said from his own experience; ‘Failure is success in progress’. Einstein’s life shows, that we need not be disappointed in failures. They are our opportunities and step ladders to take us to the pinnacle of success.

  1. Steven Spielberg

Steven was not at all bright in his studies. He had poor grades in high school. He was rejected from the University of California three times. His perseverance and acceptance of failure as a challenge and growth opportunity took him to the heights of great success. He is considered as the most influential filmmaker of all times. He has a rare record of achieving three Oscars.

  1. Stephen King

Stephen King’s greatest ambition was to become a novelist. When he was working as a teacher, he wrote his first novel ‘Carrie’. He submitted his manuscript to different publishers one after another but it was rejected 30 times. In utter disappointment, he threw his manuscript into a public waste bin. His wife retrieved it and persuaded her husband to try once more. Hesitantly he sent it again to another publisher. To his surprise, it was accepted and thus his first novel Carrie was published. This novel became a best seller making King the most sought after novelist. He wrote 54 novels and around 200 short stories. His books have sold more than 350 million copies. Many of his novels have been adapted as feature films and television series. He got several covetable awards for his works.

  1. Oprah Winfrey

 Winfrey’s childhood was full of failures and frustrations. She was sexually abused and was even raped. She was fired from her first job as a TV anchor in Baltimore. But she could overcome all these adversities and finally, she became the owner of a powerful TV Channel. She is today regarded as the most influential woman in the U.S.A. ‘There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction;’ Winfrey points out from her own experience.

  1. Walt Disney

 Walt Disney’s early days were full of challenges and failures. He discontinued his studies in school with the intention to join the army but he failed in his attempt. Later, he started a studio but it was a colossal failure and he went bankrupt. The job he got in a Missouri newspaper was a relief for him, but he was soon fired from that job accusing that he was not at all creative. In spite of all these failures and pitfalls, he continued to strive forward with great hope. He proved himself as one of the greatest geniuses with exceptional creativity and brilliance. His valuable contributions will be remembered forever.

  1. Bill Gates

Bill Gates discontinued his studies in Harvard and started a business. But it was a disastrous failure. But he could later turn the failure into enviable success. He started a software company “Microsoft’ and became the most successful business magnate and tycoon. He held the Forbs’ title of the richest person in the world from 1995 to2017. He is now regarded as the world’s greatest philanthropist and humanitarian. See what he says about failure; ‘It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure’.

  1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a dropout from Reed College. After leaving the college, he travelled through India and studied Zen Buddhism. Steve Jobs and his friend started the Apple Company in a garage because of financial constraints. It gradually became a $2 billion company with more than 4000 employees. Consequent to some internal power struggles, Steve was forced to leave the very same company he started and nourished. It was painful and distressing for him. But he could transform his disappointment into creativity and he started his own new ventures, NexT and Pixar. These ventures were highly successful. Finally, NexT merged with Apple and Steve Jobs became the CEO of Apple again.

He was largely responsible for reviving the company which was a sinking ship. He stunned the world with his creative innovations in the company. When he was at the zenith of glory, Steve Jobs once remarked about his ouster from Apple; ‘Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me’. His experience shows that every failure contains the seeds of grand success.

  1. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, who is considered as the greatest basketball player ever lived, was once dropped from the school basketball team. Still, he continued his passion for basketball. He had to face several failures and setbacks in his career before he rose to the crown of glory. He once confessed; ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed’.

Summing up- Failures and Success

The great ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said; ‘Our greatest glory is not, in never failing, but in rising every time we fail’. The new generation is extremely worried about adversities and failures. They are unable to cope with difficult situations. They are easily disheartened and disappointed on setbacks. They soon become devastated, hopeless and even think of ending up their lives. It is highly essential to educate and train them to increase their ‘frustration- tolerance level’ and to dispel their ‘failure phobia’.

Failures set our roadmap and are the golden gates to great success. They are blissful opportunities to strengthen you to rise to the pinnacle of success. Remember that each failure you face contains hidden seeds of success and glory. As Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. senator and politician rightly pointed out; ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly, can achieve greatly’.

About the Author: 

john muzhuthettu

DrJOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.

He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:

  1. ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
  2. Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
  3. Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(css,Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
  4. Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
  5. Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)

As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand  seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha. Email:(

Read More from Dr. John Muzhuthettu:






  1. History is full of such examples. A thin tall young man was attending an interview for a job as news reader on radio. After the audition he was asked to get lost.”Your voice is not suited for news reading!” He later became a singer and actor , Amitab Bachan! Another boy started his career as a newspaper boy. Studied well he became a scientist. The rocket he made flopped. A missile he created misfired and all these ended up in lots of ridicule. But he worked harder to later become a well known space scientist: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam! .
    Kudos to Dr.John Muzhuthett for this well crafted article which makes very interesting reading.

  2. Hallo Dr. John
    Failure is the stepping stone to success, You have attempted to convey this message to the modern young generation.You could establish it with many examples of many great people

    Keep on writing Dr. John


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here