USING FAILURES INTO SUCCESS: Excellence versus Perfection

Today let’s talk about the dreaded concept that most people fear – failure.

We’ve all experienced moments of failure in our lives at some point. Sometimes these failures cause us to feel unmotivated and dejected. Often times these moments even push us to give up and ultimately quit the things we initially hoped to be successful in. However, something that a lot of people fail to recognize is that failure is a part of success.

Something we know for sure is that everything we do in life comes attached with life lessons, which can help us grow and improve. When we succeed, we can reflect on things we could’ve done better to be even more successful. When we fail, we can pinpoint things that went wrong. So now we know there are positives that come out of failure in the guise of life lessons, but what are the negatives? The negatives arise from what you choose to do with the lessons you receive. Either you’re going to use the lessons to minimize the chances of failure when you try something again, or you’re going to disregard the lessons and do nothing. Doing nothing is usually the easy route out, but why waste the lessons we’ve been gifted in life?

Sir Ken Robinson, one of the most popular TED speakers and an expert in the field of creativity, points out that, our schools have created a system where failure and mistakes are punished and where kids are frightened of being wrong and of not fitting into a certain mold.  As Sir Ken puts it, “We’re running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make and the result of that is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

Sir Ken’s point isn’t that education is destroying creativity, but rather, our fundamental principles of intelligence, creativity, and teaching must change in order to best educate our children.  The bottom line is that mistakes are not always bad. Mistakes are not things we should fear.  That doesn’t mean we should go out of our way to make mistakes for the heck of it, but it means that in our endeavors, we should never let fear of failure prevent us from trying.  Mistakes are essential for us to grow not just as human beings but as creative beings as well.


Never confuse excellence with perfection. It is easy to achieve excellence, but tough to achieve perfection. Perfection is a phobia, you are afraid of making mistakes. Ironically, when you emphasize perfection too much, you tend to make more mistakes, resulting in more failures. However, when you emphasize excellence, you tend to be comfortable as you find it easier to execute and deliver. In fact, you will be more comfortable taking risks, going out of the basket and being more creative as fear of making mistakes do not haunt you.

Excellence paves the way for improvement, while perfection paves the way for stagnation, limiting one’s creativity and innovation. People often fail to deliver goods when emphasis is laid on perfection. However, excellence tolerates mistakes and failures, thus allowing people to explore and experiment, and, in turn, paving the way for excellence. Excellence is feasible and possible, while perfection is a fantasy and often difficult to attain. Excellence is pleasure, while perfection is pressure. Perfection is impossible except in scientific laboratory experiments and mathematical applications. Most of the time, emphasizing perfection rather than excellence acts as an obstacle to progress.


Jack Ma, the richest man in Asia and founder of Alibaba Group, makes sure to never waste the lessons he receives from failures. You might think that it’s easy for Jack to value his lessons because he’s a billionaire who has seen a lot of success in his life, but that is certainly not the case. In fact, Jack has failed at things most people succeed in. Before founding Alibaba, Jack applied to KFC and got rejected. To put things in greater perspective, out of the 24 people who applied to KFC in Jack’s city, Jack was the only one who got rejected. The billionaire faced similar failures throughout exams he took in elementary school and college too.

Had Jack wallowed in his failures, he would probably not be the richest man in Asia. Had Jack succeeded in getting the job at KFC, he would probably be in a very different place in life today. However, Jack’s resilience and appreciation of the lessons he learned from countlessly failing have made him the successful man he is today.

Remember, you only fail when you stop trying.


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