Misunderstood: the relationship between success and failure?

My understanding of success and failure has been wrong. For as long as I can remember my beliefs about success and failure have been inaccurate, or at the very least incomplete. I have been living with a huge misconception about the relationship between success and failure. Recently though, I had a moment of realization. I have been working on a project that has seen me spending time with people whom have achieved peak performance; entrepreneurs, business leaders, content creators and more. I was in search of their success stories, and most importantly what their journeys had taught them about success.

As I studied these success stories and compiled hours of research, I had one of those light bulb moments and now see with inexplicable clarity that success and failure live adjacent to one another. Success and failure are – if you like – neighbours. They are not distant relatives living far apart as I had previously perceived them to be. They are side by side, living on either side of life’s little white picket fence.

I suspect many people – as I have always done – see success and failure as opposites. Two opposing destinations. We have the idea that success sits at one end of the continuum and failure at another. I believed that a step toward success was a step away from failure. But I now see that simply isn’t true. Taking a step toward success is also taking a step closer to failure. (Potentially).

The road to success is uncertain. There is no clear path. For every individual and every company there is an unexplored road waiting for them. When you take a step forward along that road, you don’t know whether you will eventually be unlatching the gate, striding up the cobbled path and knocking on the door of success or ringing the doorbell of failure. I can now see that while success is not a guarantee neither is failure.

For every successful person in the world there are equally as many failures (maybe more cause that’s just life). They share many common traits – like belief, perseverance, confidence and grit – but the one thing most apparent in both is action.

You can’t arrive at success without action. Equally you can’t fail without action. You are with absolute certainty going to achieve neither success nor failure if you don’t move. Take that step forward. Try. Do.

Maybe this realization that success and failure are neighbours explains why people spend so much of their lives doing nothing.  There is risk. When you start out on your journey there is no guarantee you will find success. Taking that risk means you are heading toward either success or failure. You have no idea which awaits you. How could you? None of us can predict the future.

People who succeed are simply people who are willing to take a risk and get lucky.  People who fail are those who simply knocked on the wrong door – right at the end of their journey.  Some people win and some people lose. Life has to be that way. The realization, is that successful people and those who fail are risk takers. Both are “pro” action. Both believe in doing. Both believe in trying.

For those people who come up short, well they will always have the journey – the adventure, the learning, the growth, the experience. They will always have a story to share.  Doing nothing is not living, and it’s certainly not progressing.

You won’t know if you’re going to be a success or a failure without beginning a journey. But the journey itself, is what makes us, us.  You have to be willing to potentially fail if you want the chance of succeeding.

The real people who miss out – on career and on life – are the majority of people. People who aren’t willing to take a risk. Who play it safe. Who just get caught up in the routines.

Success and failure are neighbours. Are you willing to take the risk and head down the street toward them?

About: Paul Kaye

Originally from England, Paul spent nearly a decade programming radio stations in the UK before moving to Canada in 2012. 

While working for Newcap Radio, Paul programmed Classic Hits, Hot-AC and CHR formats in Vancouver & Calgary. Paul was also Newcap’s National Talent Development Director, tasked with improving performance across all content teams, overseeing syndication and leading talent acquisition. In 2016, he joined Rogers Media, as National Talent Coach and National Format Director (CHR). 

Paul was somehow named International PD of the year in 2016 (vote re-count pending) and is a certified coach.  Paul lives in Toronto and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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