A Publication of WTVP

The Dirty F-Word

by Amy Burkett |

If we never fail, we’re not trying anything big enough

It might be hard for you to remember when your fear of failure actually set in. For a lot of us, it was elementary school. That’s when we learned there would be nothing worse than failing a test, and that fear kept growing as we grew and the stakes got higher.

Fast-forward and you’re an adult who might be playing it safe, not willing to go after what you really want in life, because you’re afraid of failing or you’re trying to get over a past failure. I’ve spent the last two years writing the book The Dirty F-Word: Lessons from Our Failures to empower you to kick that fear to the curb once and for all.

I’ve interviewed a dozen of my most successful friends from around the world, asking them to share powerful lessons from their greatest failures. Through the mistakes of others as well as our own, we discover how to leverage those lessons to make us unstoppable. Here are my top four lessons from famous failures.

Setups for Success

Milton Hershey was fired from an apprenticeship with a printer. He failed with his first three attempts at building a candy business. For Milton, the fourth try was the charm. Everything he had learned from those failures helped him see success when creating the Lancaster Caramel Company before eventually founding the Hershey Company, known for making delicious chocolates. The rest is history.

Nobody has to believe in you but YOU

I’m a super fan of Walt Disney. I think his legacy has created more joy for others than anyone else in the world. However, Walt was called a failure by so many people. He was fired from a newspaper once because he was told he had no creativity. His first animation studio, Laugh-O-Grams Films, went bankrupt. Hollywood insiders rejected him at almost every turn.

But Walt went on to win 22 Academy Awards, seven Emmys and launched the idea that created amusement parks around the globe. He harnessed everything he learned from his failures to create tremendous success. Take that, critics.

Never Give Up

Have you heard of the Dyson vacuum cleaners? It was the first bagless vacuum. Sir James Dyson failed in making the prototype 5,126 times before finally creating one that worked. He certainly developed drive and determination from his failures before finding success.

Closed Doors Lead You to Success

Before Vera Wang was a famous fashion designer, she was a figure skater who failed to make the U.S. Olympic team. Then, she went to work for Vogue magazine but was rejected at her attempt to be editor-in-chief. Her next step was becoming a fashion designer. 

Sometimes our failures push us out of the wrong careers so we can find the right one. Another powerful lesson from the dirty F-word.

Here’s my point in sharing all these stories with you. Failure was necessary for each of these people to actually succeed. Why do we often think everything should work the first time we try it? Why do we give up when we’re so close to success? What will it take for us to evaluate our failures, learn from them, readjust and find the success we’re searching for?  

I can’t answer that question for you, but I think deep down inside, you know what to do next. Please don’t give up. Just take the next step, which will probably lead you to the next step after that. You’ve got this. Go ahead and borrow my belief in you until you build your own confidence. May the fear of failure no longer have any power over you.

I had it all wrong. Failure isn’t to be feared. It’s to be celebrated as our catalyst for success. If we never fail, we’re not trying anything big enough. 

Amy Burkett

Amy Burkett

is the host of WTVP’s Leadership Series, a multi-regional Emmy Award-winning journalist, author of The 7D’s to Your Destiny and a certified John Maxwell trainer, speaker and coach.