Posted: 22 Mar. 2021 10 min. read

It is okay to fail

Everybody likes to win. And most of us also like to believe that if we don't always win, we will be called underachievers or even worse, failures.

We have been taught to think from a very early age that winning is everything and failure is fatal. But we need to give a thought to the fact that sometimes winning just isn't everything. Over time, from my own life experiences, I have learnt that it was okay not to win and not to give up but to learn from it. Let's accept it, failure, as much as it hurts, is a part and parcel of life despite all our talent, skills, positions etc. And it might, in fact, move you towards better thing

Failure has different meanings and experiences for each of us. As we grow, we all come across failures and successes. In every successful journey, failure is inevitable. Being competitive is not bad in any way but letting winning be the only priority over many other important things may not be the right approach. Failure has two sides—one makes you strong and the other leaves you skeptical forever. Now it depends which side we choose to be on.

History is replete with many successful people from various walks of life—politics, business, arts, science, or sports—you’ll find that they too had failed at some point in their lives. In fact, it's how they turned around their lives after facing multiple failures that produced success stories. If you have encountered failure at some point, then I suggest that you stop worrying because you have an incredible company of stalwarts to learn from.

Here are a few personal experiences which have shaped my thoughts about success and failure and are the reasons I feel why it’s okay to fail sometimes. You could consider these reasons the next time you feel that you didn’t accomplish all your goals. 

Learn more from failure than success

Failure #1 or Learning #1?

The first big lesson in failure or rather learning from failure for me was when I did not get selected by Deloitte in 2006—I did not have enough experience for the position I applied for, but that didn’t deter me—I did not give up. I had my eye fixed on Deloitte as an organization, even though I had offer from another company. I tried again after six months and gave it my best shot—I ended up joining as an analyst. This taught me not to give up on things that I valued. It taught me that if you work on elevating yourself, you will achieve your goals.

Learning #2

When I was at senior consultant level, I was managing around 70-80 professionals across various teams. I was the lead for technology and was the point-of-contact (POC) for Leaders and technology vendors. Life seemed good—it was my milestone year and I was expecting a promotion that year. But it did not happen. It came as a shock to me and I could not understand the reason for it. For whatever reasons that it did not happen, I did not lose my motivation because of this one incident and pursued my aspirations. Through this experience, I realized if you fail but are determined to bounce right back, and you push yourself even harder, you will explore new ways and learn to do things differently. And that’s what happened with me. The support system I had from my family and mentors only helped me, and the next year I moved up the ladder and it felt much deserving and satisfactory to me. 

I am positive

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that life threw at me was in 2010. I was working tirelessly on a project, almost round the clock. I was hardly taking any breaks and wasn’t paying attention to my health. I noticed that I got an ulcer on my tongue, but I did not pay much heed to it. After a few days, the pain intensified. I visited a doctor and took some medicines for a few days. The ulcer and the pain persisted, and finally after ignoring it for a couple of months, I went to a specialist. A biopsy was done, and it was diagnosed as cancer. And I was in the final stage, with very less chances of survival. I felt shattered—I was just about 30 years old, with a young daughter and a family to take care of. After my surgery, I underwent treatment and radiation therapy for approximately 9 months. I can easily say that those were perhaps the most difficult days of my life.

I was one of the best orators, but now that I had lost a part of my tongue due to the cancer – it took away my ability to even speak clearly. It was devastating for me. I was losing hope. But my support system was very strong—my family and colleagues helped me immensely to get over this period. My mentor at the time, helped provide me the support I needed to overcome my insecurities that I was feeling at the time—he instilled the confidence in me that my speech may have been affected, but it did not imply that I had lost my talent. I fought this battle long and hard, and even though the doctors had given me a warning that I had little time left, I survived it—it’s been 10 years since. And here I am, a person who has grown professionally—promoted as a Leader last year—as well as personally. I am positive, that I have not only come out of it stronger, but also more resilient.

One of the best reasons why it’s okay to fail sometimes is precisely the fact that you learn more from failure than from all the instant successes you might have had. When you are used to winning in everything, you never truly know what you lack to better yourself. And when you make the course correction, after learning from your failures, you’re likely to be doing your job even better than when you had first started.

Failures sensitize you

Losing also teaches you to be humble, as did my own experiences. If we are used to be the best, we might not be able to empathize with those who aren't. This can cause us to be insensitive, and we might not realize it. When we are considerate to others, we are likely to be more involved in helping them, as we can better relate with their situation. Being humble is something that many of us struggle with, but it is an important characteristic of a good leader.

Winning is nice, but it is not everything. What is vital is to accept that it is OK to fail sometimes, and learn to see failure as an experience that can teach us much more than what success can. It’s all about putting things into perspective.

The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of his current, former, or future employers or any organization with which he is associated.

Key Contacts

Ankur Ruparelia

Ankur Ruparelia

Managing Director | Consulting

Ankur Ruparelia is the Digital Customer Emerging Technologies Practice leader at Deloitte Consulting India Private Limited based out of Mumbai. He leads large scale digital transformation engagements for our Financial services clients across geographies, keeping “human experience” at the center of each transformation. He is tech savvy, with specialisation in technologies like Salesforce, Oracle CX, MS Dynamics, ServiceNow, Conga etc. He is an innovator, responsible for driving outcomes for client’s complex business problems, and some of his innovations have helped reduce significant time & cost required for large transformational projects. Ankur is passionate about people and focuses on building diverse, next-gen workforce to catalyse growth, and lead the future for Deloitte.