The Overlooked Value Of Failure

Success is often more difficult to handle than failure because, while failure can be an end in itself, success requires a commitment to keep going.

We often think of failure in terms of its’ negative connotations. We associate failure with disappointment, frustration, and loss. Failure can also bring us relief, however, because failure resolves uncertainty.

When we try something and we fail, the choices we have are typically fairly clear. They usually come down to a choice between determination, innovation, and resignation. That is to say, we can “try, try, try again,” we can take a different approach altogether, or we can quit, cut our losses, and move on.

Failure is a natural stopping point at which we are afforded the luxury of reassessing our goals, our strategies, and our tactics. Failure allows us to ask ourselves how badly we really wanted what we were working toward and exactly how far we are willing to go in order to achieve it. Failure is a place to rest and catch our breath, even if just for a moment.

Success, on the other hand, in spite of the way it is perceived by those who have never achieved it, affords no such luxury. Success is a state of perpetual motion. Success must be ceaselessly and tirelessly nurtured, fed, and tended to.

Often, instead of creating possibilities, success limits them, forcing us to focus on it and only it lest we lose what we believe ourselves to have gained. Success demands our time, our attention, and our energy.

Failure, in spite of the way it may feel, affords us near limitless options and possibilities because it requires nothing from us. Obviously, failure should not be our goal, but it should also not be overlooked for its value along the way.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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