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A Warped Perspective on Failure – Why We Need to Rebrand the Word Entirely

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Why Give a Damn:

Fear of failure has prevented people from falling in love, becoming artists, telling friends the truth, and chasing dreams without apology. If we are going to continue to shy away from failure, it’s time we redefined it.


The author of this post, Daniel Epstein, has founded and run several startup accelerators, is a serial entrepreneur who currently runs Unreasonable Group, and is proud to admit that many of his “successes”, including the Unreasonable Institute, were born out of what others would see as “failures.”

Instead of trying to convert the world to embracing failure, we simply need to redefine it.  Tweet This Quote

I think we need to re-brand the definition of failure and our conceptions of it entirely. The fear of failure stops too many great minds from creating something meaningful in the world. It halts too many of us from living extraordinary lives. The fear of failure has prevented people from falling in love, becoming artists, telling close friends the truth, and has prevented the majority of us from chasing our dreams without apology. Why? The current definition is off… We need to re-think it.

For the past decade or so, there has been a globalized movement and shift in thinking across much of the startup world that has allowed entrepreneurs to embrace failure as a learning journey. Although this has been effective for the world of startups (though we are just scratching the surface), it has yet to be accepted and embraced by the other 99.8% of the population. I think that instead of trying to convert the world to embracing failure, we simply need to redefine it.

Old definition of Failure:

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to Fail means “to not succeed: to end without success. To not succeed as a business: to become bankrupt. To weaken or lose strength.”
The antonym for failure is success.

New Definition of Failure:

According to the new Unreasonable Dictionary (why not =), to Fail means “to not start doing something you believe in. To stop doing something you believe in just because it is hard. To ignore your gut instinct around what you believe is right and wrong.”
The antonyms for failure are inaction, cowardice, and acting unethically.

If we adopt this definition, then I think everything changes. Especially if you look at the antonyms. It’s no wonder the world is scared of failure when the current antonym is success. Change that antonym to inaction, cowardice, and acting unethically and I believe everything changes. If we can re-brand the word, we can re-brand our posture to it and my hope, is that collectively and individually, we can start chasing our dreams and the meaning we want to see in our lives with less hesitation. Even if just a small fraction of us do this, I’m convinced the world will be a hell of a lot of a better place.

It’s no wonder the world is scared of failure when the current antonym is success. We must change the definition entirely  Tweet This Quote

Daniel Epstein

About the author

Daniel Epstein has an obsession. He believes to his core in the potential of entrepreneurship to solve the greatest challenges of this century and he has dedicated his...

Daniel Epstein has written 21 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • Britnee_Kay

    This is a great new definition to failure. There are so many people in this world that just accept failure because they can’t see themselves making it to success, so if the goal wasn’t to be successful, but to just get started, give it all you have and that should be enough would, I think, change people’s lives and outlook on life. It’s always better t think more positive than negative and I believe that’s what you’ve done to the definition of failure, so thank you.

  • paleskij

    “The fear of failure stops too many great minds from creating something meaningful in the world.” I really like this perspective, particularly given Epstein’s background in the start-up world, which has a very high, accepted rate of “failure.” I think this is an especially true statement for women, and something that has been on my mind a lot recently while reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” That simple fear of failing at something or being viewed as a failure stops women from taking so many risks, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Men that “fail” are viewed all the time as the underdog, picking themselves back up again, while women who “fail” are viewed differently–it is almost expected in some cases. I agree that a shift should be made in the definition, and we should stop looking at it as the opposite of success. Maybe this will take some of the pressure off, and help people realize that making mistakes is human and when we’re pursuing what we love, these mistakes are going to happen.

  • Caroline Brewka

    This was a great read! I am glad that we are starting to hear more and more about how we really should be approaching failure. In my businesses classes we often talk about failure, and now rather than running from it, I embrace it. Failure is the most powerful source of understanding. Every time you have the chance to confront failure, you learn from it and ultimately better yourself. In addition, somebody who invites failure is more likely to be somebody who is not afraid to take risks and is somebody who sees opportunity where others might see a wall. Thanks for sharing your new unreasonable definition of failure- I think its a great one!

  • Krystel Listyo

    This article looks very well put together, I like the idea of the ‘new’ definition of failure that the author has made. The first sentence from the new definition of failure is “to not start doing something you believe in”. This is very relatable to all of us because sometimes, we have this ‘hidden’ talent that suddenly got discovered but then we just ignore it because we don’t know where to start or how to start. And then, at some point in our lives, we just stop discovering our talent because we got tired of trying to figure out what to do. And that is when life starts to seem pointless because we are dragging ourselves to failure. This new definition makes me want to never give up for doing things that I love and start exploring new things. Thank you for such a great article.

  • Caleb Trantow

    Thank you for this article, I needed this. I feel like I’m failing in a lot of aspects in my life right now including my job search and pursuing my passion of music. But with this new definition says that by giving up (what I often feel like doing) is the true failure. I just need to look at what I have done and learn from my mistakes and I need to set some honest goals of success to myself, and if I achieve them, know that I did something great. Great article!

  • Guest

    This article really reminded me about a discussion I had in a previous business class and made me think about how differently we now approach failure. We’re more accepting of the concept of failure and nowadays we see more and more articles, people, and videos that explain how misjudged many people were in the past because of having failed in something. A discussion in class I had addressed the different views and approaches countries had toward entrepreneurs who did not succeed in their startup. This article exemplifies why so many individuals from other countries come to the States in hopes of trying something new. The view in the States is that one failure doesn’t necessarily mean that a person’s other ideas or businesses to come will fail as well. As compared to Europe, in which some countries there judge failure more harshly. This new definition of failure needs to be pushed toward the public more so that everyone better understands what it could mean and stop relating it to a negative perspective. As a result, we could see more people experimenting with their ideas being more motivated to try new things.

  • Natalie

    I completely agree with the statement of how, “The fear of failure has prevented people from falling in love, becoming artists, telling close friends the truth, and has
    prevented the majority of us from chasing our dreams without apology.” There’s
    something scary about not succeeding. If we change the way we view the word “failure” to a more positive light, I truly believe we wouldn’t be afraid of trying
    something new or wouldn’t give up so easily on things we think we would fail at.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • natebbeard

    You bring up a good point that’s easily overlooked when it comes to the gender dynamics of failure and entrepreneurship. Was just talking to a friend about how gender dynamics in toys, tv shows, and the media effect gender dynamics in engineering and entrepreneurial roles at a really young age… it’s hard to pinpoint the best place to try and change these social structures, but the younger the better right?

  • ysursan

    I really enjoyed this article. Too many people do not experience success because of their fear of the term “failure”. As a college student, I find that this word is used often and without much sensitivity. “Failing” a test, “failing” a course- what does that mean the student put forth their best effort? Does that fit the Webster definition for “failure”? I agree that instead of embracing the term, it simply needs to be redefined. As it is, the terms seems like a dead-end street. Failure is where it ends. With a new definition, however, I think people would begin to understand failure as a new beginning and a new opportunity. With this new definition, if one felt like a “failure” after they did not get their dream job, they would continue to pursue it in a different manner than their first round of efforts. I really liked the ending quote, “It’s no wonder the world is scared of failure when the current antonym is success.” Thank you for sharing this article!

  • chi shaolong

    Well, this article is great. Normally, the previous defination of failure is so simple, we all know the old one, so when we change something from the old one, we find the new one is more clear . Somethings our goal of one thing is not expected than the reality. But it is not called failure.The new one: ” To not start doing something you believe in. To stop doing something you believe in just because it is hard.” I love this conception, also this sentense reflect another question, what is the success and what is failure? personally, I think when someone keep doing the working wihout any complain, that is success. if not, it is failure.

  • Joey Faustian

    I really think this article is very interesting. The fear of failure is often become a reason for a person to give it a try on the thing they love. In my point of view, i really think that failed is part of the learning towards success. As long as as you did not repeat the same mistake, it is not categorized as a failure. Why? Because even though it is a mistake, but you still learning something from it

  • Andersonjc16

    I really like this idea, People need to learn that failure is not such a bad thing its part of life and learning. If we are able to change the perspective it should hopefully be accepted and failure wont be looked as a bad thing.

  • Andersonjc16

    I agree so much that failure is a huge part of learning and failure helps you learn as you put its helps decrease the repetition of mistakes.

  • lepkowskjj29

    Agreed some of the most successful people in the world failed at first and learned from their mistakes to succeed.

  • lepkowskjj29

    Failure helps a person grow character and as long as you learn from the failure you can have success.

  • MeierKM23

    This is a great idea. Failure is part of life and although it is not fun to go through, it teaches us to work harder or change something that had to be done. As a college student, I admit it, I am scared, and hopefully what I am working towards, I am successful in. I also have feared failure, but the new definition made me think that I should still follow my dreams even if it my be difficult sometime. If anything, I will learn something throughout it all. Thanks so much for this!

  • MeierKM23

    I agree with you! There are so many of us in this big world full of opportunities and people just accept failure because it gets hard or don’t think they will succeed. The new definition gives it a more positive outlook than before. The only antonym was success and if that’s all people see, of course they are going to fear failure, and the new definition makes people want to work as hard as they can to get where they want to be!!

  • tjbaumeister08

    Thank you for sharing this article. I agree that people shouldn’t be afraid of failure, and if the new definition was used instead of the one now, then people wouldn’t be so afraid of it. Failure and making mistakes is all part of learning, if you aren’t doing them then you aren’t really learning anything. How do you handle failure?

  • BartuchGR11

    Thank you for posting this blog. I think this article can be helpful to me and others as well because we need to learn that failure isn’t always bad. I have learned that sometimes we have to fail in order to get back up and try again. I agree that we need to rebrand the work failure because I do think it stops us from doing great things. For example, as a college student I have been in a situation I didn’t try as hard because I was afraid of failing. In the end if I put more effort in I could have been probably more successful.

  • Will Brown

    As someone who’s occasionally crippled by the fear of failure, I can relate to the former definition. I have always been reminded by those who have experienced success that failure is merely an obstacle in the long road to success. Really dig this post and will try to take it to heart!

  • laurenfujino

    I think this is a great article. Often times we hear that we learn more from our mistakes (failures) than we do from our success, however, with the current perception that the world has of failure, nobody wants to fail. If we can change our perspective of the word failure to that of a “learning journey,” and really believe it, I think that there will be a lot more innovation and a lot more happy people. As a person who is afraid to fail I would like to embrace the Unreasonable’s definition instead of the one listed in the dictionary.

  • rulintseng

    I really like the concept of what is presenting in
    this article. The older definition of failure makes people afraid to take
    actions towards their dreams because they do not want to fail. However, the new definition of failure gives people the encouragement and confidence to do
    something they believe in without the fear of not succeeding. I think this
    would be a great concept to spread out to everyone so that all of us can
    replace the old definition of failure with the new positive and powerful definition.

  • LevenhagAL14

    I agree! If we all would look at failure as a learning experience. people wouldn’t be afraid to reach out and express themselves more often. I think it’s important to embrace the times we aren’t successful, it’s important to keep what it means to “win” in perspective. If everyone was awarded as a winner, it wouldn’t be valuable anymore, which is where I think we are in society.

  • Ray Tedjadinata

    I totally agree with the entire contents of the article. I realize that people will face a failure at least once in a life time. Failures could stop preventing people from achieving of what they have dreamed for a long time. However, those failures could make us a better or worst person. It depends on how we overcome that failures. If we take those failures as a lesson of life, those failures could make us a better person. We will not repeat the same mistakes. On the other hand, if we take failure as a form of depression, it could make us a worst person than before. We will just keep thinking about those failures without thinking about how to step one level up. I also think that the environment around use could play a big role on how people overcome their failures. If the environment around those people is supportive, people who usually face the failures can think ahead on how they achieve their success.

  • tjahjono

    I think that the article greatly touch on the epidemic that is apparent in society today; fear of failure. Especially, in that of the millennials. I think that as a millennial, we are so in touch with the readily available information of successful stories and we are subconsciously comparing ourselves them. However, this unhealthy comparison does not touch on the reality that those people went through hardships as well to reach their goals. I think that the young generations’ mindset became warped that cause them strive for an overnight success; and when these overnight successes seems unfeasible they retreat in their endeavors. I think that this kind of mindset of constantly self-comparing is killing the ideas and creativity of the youth.

  • jkailing

    Thank you for sharing this article with us. I really agree
    that people don’t start doing something, or continue doing things they want to
    do because they are scared of failing. I think if people thought of failure as
    the new definition then more ideas would come about and be shared. I think if
    people thought of failure as more of an obstacle and less of the end continued
    after the first attempt a lot more things could and would be accomplished. I
    can used this new definition of failure in my life be remembering that failure
    is just a part of life and something that happens and know that its not the end
    of the world. One question I would ask the
    author is how did you stay positive after not being successful at something
    early in your career?

  • WolfgramKA06

    I really enjoyed this article because redefining the word really makes failure less “harsh.” I got really competitive with grades in middle school, and if I got a B, I would say “oh darn, I failed again!” The opposite of failure isn’t perfection and success, and with that state of mind, I learned to work my hardest with everything I do, but accepted grades that I got knowing that I tried the best that I could. Sometimes we just can’t be so hard on ourselves. Did you ever consider yourself as “a failure” when you were younger or in school? How did you learn to overcome that?

  • http://parisinmadison.blogspot.com/ Amanda O.

    I love this article. My favorite quote from this article is this: “The fear of failure has prevented people from falling in love, becoming artists, telling close friends the truth, and has prevented the majority of us from chasing our dreams without apology.” We have all been through it. We don’t understand that failure is a part of success, a learning experience. Someone from West Point Academy once told me “to find your limit and experience the most growth, you have to go on a journey of cumulative failure”. And I think you’re right, Mr. Epstein, we ought to rethink and remake the definition of failure. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://parisinmadison.blogspot.com/ Amanda O.

    Natalie, that is exactly my thoughts about this article and the idea of failure. We are all afraid of failing because there is a negative connotation to the word failure. We are taught to succeed and only to succeed, nothing more. But in this thinking process, we have already failed. We have failed to think in a more positive light and we have failed to learn from our mistakes. Thank you for sharing!

  • aulm92

    Daniel, the articles you write are always excellent. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. That being said, I love the message that you bring in this article. It is true that so many people refrain from doing things because of their fear of failing. I’ve found myself included doing the same. If more people took your approach to the meaning of the word failure I think people would be more inclined to take those risks and gain the courage to truly listen to their gut. Have you ever stopped yourself form doing something because of the fear of failing?

  • schrammjm26

    Great article! This reminds me of a story I was told when I was younger about when Thomas Edison was trying to create the light bulb and “failed” again and again. Instead of giving into defeat he responded by saying “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb”. If everyone had this outlook many more people would be encouraged to go out and take a risk. Failure is not being unsuccessful, failure is the lack of trying in the first place.

  • Jeff Margolf

    I think it is always important to use failure as a tool to grow, develop, and progress, rather than hinder personal development. Failure in many cases is a good thing in the sense that it allows you to understand your mistakes. After reading the article, I resonated with the idea that we should rebrand failure into a more positive term in order for people to be more accepting of failure, that way people are more willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Question: In the article shouldn’t the antonyms of failure be synonyms?

  • AndreaBehling

    That was my favorite quote, too. I like that he chose to apply it not only in a business sense, but in personal aspects of life. Fear of failure acts as a blockade for so many different things in life, so changing the definition is an idea I can get behind!

  • Logan Dohmeier

    This is great! There is a lot more to failure than just not working out. Giving up on yourself before a project or start up even begins is failure. Sometimes we learn that failure leads to success, as it allows for further development and reconstruction of our ideas. Just because something doesn’t work out that first time does not mean we have failed by any-means. You have to take it as an opportunity to improve, grow, or learn more! I think this type of advice is excellent for the college crowd because we do really need to understand the importance of taking what you have and giving it your all with the idea of improvement at the tip of conscious thought. Great article.

  • AndreaBehling

    I like the way you applied this concept to this theory about the millennial generation. You might find this blog post interesting–http://www.c2educate.com/c2-education/a-sanitized-childhood-do-millennials-fear-failure/

  • AndreaBehling

    Thanks for the fresh perspective on this. It’s interesting to hear about the different views and reactions to failure when comparing Europe to the U.S. Before failure comes risk, and taking risks is something the U.S. has historically been known for. For example, some traveled to the U.S. to fulfill the “American Dream.” In a way, the “American Dream” was a slogan created to assure people that their risk would pay off in the end. So when I think about redefining the word “failure,” I don’t think Daniel is too far out there.

  • Lucy McNamara

    testing this out

  • Mcgrailkk30

    I absolutely love your definition of failure! People too often are afraid of failing when they should really embrace it. When you fail you simply learn one way that doesn’t work. It’s like Michael Jordan’s famous quote “…I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed”

  • Jamie Finney

    To me, this beckons for a redefinition of success as well. It may seem obvious, but we’ll need to change our traditional measures of success as well. Not only should we change failure to equate to inaction, but success to action as well. In a perfect world, not only are we no longer afraid of failure, but we also find success easier to accomplish based on the impact and experience gained. Sure, some ideas need to fail, but we might as well try 1000 things to find that one that does work, than to have never tried at all. We don’t know how powerful that one idea could if we’re not bold enough to keep trying.

  • Zach Perkins

    Nice article! Really gives people a different perspective on a negative word. I think that failure is something we can all benefit from. Every situation can teach us something. But, this article can change things a bit. Instead of learning from failure, we can change our initial decision thus reach our dreams. It’s great concept, and one I think could change the way many of us think in everyday situations.

  • Jennifer Lynn

    Awesome! This is a very different perspective, and one that I’m sure very few people look at. I believe it is very true! As a college student I can tell you I don’t always look at the world from a glass half full approach, times get difficult and I feel like a “failure.” We all need too look at failure as the simple act of “never” trying something we want to do. I think it will be difficult for me to fully grasp this concept right away but I will definitely give it a try.

  • Jared

    This is a great take on what it really means to fail. There can be no success without trying and failure is simply part of the process.

  • Frank_Stanek

    Failing in college is something that every person who attends knows about. Since we are more considered “adults” I think a lot of people take it more harshly when they reach college. Definitely can be a positive learning experience if you let it.

  • Frank_Stanek

    A lot of people get so tied up with the thought of how “I’ve failed.” that they forget that failure is something every creature has dealt with since birth. You didn’t start walking and talking right after you were born (if you did well then bravo) so it’s pointless to consider any type of failure as anything other than a learning experience. I will admit that while it’s real easy to say all these pretty words I am just as wrapped up in my own distress at my failures as anyone else. Let’s just see if I can learn something.

  • Jcoppa

    Failure is extremely scary in a society in which we all compete to be THE BEST. I think not only society, but each individual apart of society would be happier and have a higher chance of success if we worked together, as a TEAM. Then, if something fails, the team can pick up the pieces together, thus preventing an individual from feeling defeated and giving up a dream altogether.

    Failure wouldn’t be so scary if you knew you had someone who could understand and support you.

    My question about failure is when is it okay to give up on a dream? Sometimes the old definition of failure is necessary to understand crucial life lessons. How can we tell the difference between a bump in the road and a dead end?

  • Jcoppa

    Failure is extremely scary in a society in which we all compete to be THE BEST. I think not only society, but each individual apart of society would be happier and have a higher chance of success if we worked together, as a TEAM. Then, if something fails, the team can pick up the pieces together, thus preventing an individual from feeling defeated and giving up a dream altogether.

    Failure wouldn’t be so scary if you knew you had someone who could understand and support you.

    My question about failure is when is it okay to give up on a dream? Sometimes the old definition of failure is necessary to understand crucial life lessons. How can we tell the difference between a bump in the road and a dead end?

  • Caitlin Donohue

    This is a great article, thank you! Such a great point. Failure can mean so much more than “not succeeding.” Even speaking statistically, if your experiment doesn’t prove your hypothesis it will not get published in a journal. Some people see this as a total failure. Just because something doesn’t turn out as you might have guessed doesn’t mean they are failures. 3M Post-It notes were made by mistake. The glue that was supposed to be super strong turned out weak. Statistically this experiment failed but it led to the creation of Post-It notes which are amazingly popular and did great things for the 3M company. So I agree with you, Daniel, that we need to change the meaning of failure.

  • Sam Kuchenreuther

    Failure is something that is feared but shouldn’t be. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life come from failure. We should all embrace failure and become better from it. At this point in my life, I look forward to putting myself in positions where I might fail. Because I will either succeed, which is always nice, or I will fail and learn from my experience. Great article! Thank you.

  • amykahl8

    I think that a lot of people who are successful now have failed at least once before but it taught them something valuable. With failure comes more wisdom, so people need to somehow learn that failure isn’t the absolute worst thing that could happen. Is there a type of failure that people should take as an actual end point?

  • Alyssa Borgrud

    I agree with your post. When someone fails at something, they should not give up but rather take that is a point of advice and give them a breaking point of developing a new strategy to accomplish the task. Just because you fail even multiple time, that means that you just have to keep trying. When you finally succeed after many attempts, that just makes the success of a task more remarkable.

  • Andersonjc16

    Its amazing how many people that are either famous or successful in some sort of field have experienced some sort of major setback and this proves you should never give up on something that you really want or want to do.

  • Bryonny

    If I have ever excelled in anything it is because I was brave enough to do it wrong as many times as needed!

  • katie bartlein

    Very powerful meaning. I would have to agree that if people weren’t so afraid of ‘failure’ they would take more of a chance to start a new adventure such as a start up. I like that you have changed the definition to make it sound like trying is the important part. It reminds me of that famous basketball quote, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” If you never take the shot there is no way you could possibly miss, but then again there is no way you could make that shot and contribute to the teams points as well. Does that coincide with your new definition?

  • katie bartlein

    I feel the same way. I have learned many valuable lessons in my life through trial and error. I believe that it has made more of an impact on my life then always succeeding. To me, failure meets the new definition. You aren’t a failure because a new project or adventure didn’t pan out the way you wanted it to. You would be a failure if you never even tried.

  • Haley Horn

    Thank you for sharing. Did you come up with that definition yourself? I have to agree that I am scared of failing too. I think everyone is scared to fail, that’s why people don’t take risks or chances very easily. I have to say I’m getting better with taking risks and chances. If I fail, I fail and try something new/different. If I succeed, then that’s awesome!!

  • Jessica Andrew

    Thank you for sharing this article. I really like the new definition that the Unreasonable Dictionary has created. Failure is why people don’t take on chances that they should. People wouldn’t be afraid of anything if it wasn’t for this one word. How should someone overcome themselves if they were a failure?

  • pinsolera

    Thank you for posting this article Mr. Epstein, as I could not agree more. I’ve been, like any other human being, hrough some hardships that could have brought me to my knees and made me give up. But sometimes, we all have to say “enough” and move forward, inch by inch. I think that if we try our best and we don’t get the result we want, at least we did it. Theodore Roosevelt had a marvelous quote that ultimately said that it’s always better to try than to never try and wonder what it would be like if we did. Of course I was paraphrasing, but not doing anything is failing. If you do that, you’re failing yourself. What was a significant time in your life where you had enough of not doing something and did it anyway, not fearing failure and the complete outcome of something?

  • Mary Hill

    Wow, what an amazing article! As a student-athlete, I couldn’t agree more. I feel as though more and more people today are taking no for an answer and hanging their heads low with rejection; whereas, “no,” is really just another step closer to yes. I also believe that if you shouldn’t give up, but be resilient and go after what you believe in. “Failure” is a lesson taught – a valuable lesson learned and just another step closer to your ultimate goal.

  • Melissa Howlett

    Although I completely agree with Epstein’s new definition of failure, I think it is important to acknowledge that failure also comes with consequences. Possible consequences might include loss of capital, loss of confidence, loss of reputation, et cetera. While I agree that it is entirely possible to grow out of failure, it is also important to remember these consequences of failure. To me, they are just further motivation to conduct thorough research, find valuable partners, and refuse to give up.

  • mhansen11

    Thank you so much for your article.. I really enjoyed it! Failure is something everybody goes through in their life. Of course you are going to fail, but are you just going to give up and never try again because you just failed? No. You have to get back in it and try again. The whole fall 7 times, get back up 8. Don’t be scared of failing. When you fail, you learn. Learn from your previous mistakes and you can only get better from there.
    Thank you.

  • Stuart McMurran

    I do improv at my university and we always applaud failure. We encourage each other to take control of scenes so that the best characters can come to light and that the best plots are worked out. The best performances we have are when people act out deep characters and drive outrageous story lines. This would not happen if we were afraid of failure.

  • Jansscor16

    This is a great article, that really made me think. I hope I can remember this article in the future and I think I will save it somewhere. So that in the future I can look at this article and follow my dreams. This is a great article to share and I think will be very beneficial to people I know. I have always though of failure as not succeeding, but I think I can adapt to this new definition and share it with people I know. Thanks.

  • Lauren Maeda

    I definitely think that you raise an important question on when is it alright to give up. I always question if the dream is right for me or if I am a right fit for the dream. If it isn’t should I keep trying? I’d like to think that trying to achieve it in the first place would be success in itself.

  • amykahl8

    Exactly! I know the wright brothers failed a bunch of times before actually completing a flight and many other inventors for example have failed repeatedly until years later they finally just got it. This should be a reminder of people to keep going no matter how hard it sometimes is.

  • Monique

    This is a great article! There are so many people that are scared to fail that they stop themselves from ever succeeding. I can imagine all of the great things people could do for the poor if they weren’t scared to take that first step. A huge implication with investing in the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) is the idea of failure but if we are able to change the definition to reflect the inability to do something because of cowardice that will change many peoples mind. It is the fear of failure that holds corporations back and people from changing the world. It is the fear of not succeeding that has impeded development in the BOP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynn.lookman karlyn lukman

    agree with the author! thank you for sharing this! this is a good motivation.

    from my experience, failure is just a delayed success. i never believed in anything before i experienced it. i feel like my life experiences train me not to fear of failure. many times i failed, believe it or not it turns out to be a success, which means i learned from my mistake! just like your body, if you do exercise, and keep doing the same thing it will not change anything.

  • Amy Pham

    This is such a great article. It just gave my motivation an ultra-boost. A lot of people are so afraid of failure that it prevented them from being succeed. I was one of them until I get my first success after deciding to try for the second time and third time after my failure. From then on, I always think that failure is just something that you will most like have to experience before you succeed. As the Chinese wisdom quote says “Failure is the mother of success”.

  • pinsolera

    Absolutely. To build off of that, I was told that Walt Disney was bankrupt not once, but twice in his lifetime trying to build up Walt Disney World. He pursued what he believed in doing and obviously succeeded. So, we can do anything we put our minds to.

  • Palecekb

    This is awesome, “to not start doing something you believe in” I think is the most important part. I feel so many of the people around me are stuck in their unhappy circumstances because they are afraid of change, they are afraid to make the leap into new territory. Have you read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” I know that short story made one of my family’s close friends quit his job and move to Arizona because he was so inspired by the words in it. I know my Professor Ann Garvin is a fan of the book because it was going to be assigned for us to read. If you have not read it, I hope you look into it. It should only take an hour to read for you to be inspired for a lifetime!

  • weidmankl15

    What a great way to look at a simple definition. It is quite sad how people think of failure these days, especially because of that first definition. Personally, I try not to think of failure as not succeeding because I know that is not true. For example, when it came to me starting to care more about health and fitness, I only thought of failure on the days that I didn’t workout, not on the days that I couldn’t run my 3 miles in a certain amount of time. I tried, and to me trying and not achieving your exact goal is not failure. If I wouldn’t have tried at all, then that is failure. I especially agree with your last statement “Even if just a small fraction of us do this, I’m convinced the world will be a hell of a lot better place.” People need to just TRY!

  • weidmankl15

    I completely agree with the “to not state doing something you believe in” being the most important part. I am a firm believer in you only fail if you haven’t tried. It’s the same thing if you don’t start, then yes that is failure.

  • Amy Rink

    I love this article! So many people are too scared to reach their dreams, which leads them to ultimately give up. If it is something you truly care about no one should ever give up on their dreams. To try and not succeed and better than always wondering “what if”.

  • Jack Delabar

    Awesome and simple article. I thin failure is feared by the vast majority of the population, but in pursuing something that you really want, failure at some point along the way is imminent. One must stay the course and strive to achieve whatever goal it is that they are pursuing. Thanks for the post, Daniel

  • AmandaBrom

    I really enjoyed this article. It is something everyone can relate to in everything we do. I run track and cross country and I have learned time and time again that failure is what should drive you not keep you down. When I look at the times I have had a poor race I look at what I need to change. I got out too slow, didn’t stay in contact long enough, or my body just didn’t want to respond. I look at the things I can change and work on getting better. Taking those failures as a lesson and show myself I can change them. I agree with you on your definition of the word fail, it says something about yourself. Do you walk away when something gets hard, or doesn’t go your way, or do you pick up whats left and become successful. Thank you for this great article!

  • treehugger90

    I agree we must change the definition entirely because people are always putting themselves down if one little thing doesn’t go their way; myself included. I tend to say I can’t do something before I even try it. But when I try it a couple times I am able to do it. Another thing I say I can’t do is open a business in the future; but if I set my mind straight I think I could do it possibly. Thanks for the read!

  • Anthony Urbanski

    Great article! I agree with everything, fear of failure is stopping great people from doing great things. Changing the definition sounds easy on paper but it would be extremely difficult to put it into action. What is the first step into putting it into action?

  • clemonsel02

    I completely understand this idea of failure making you not even try. I think the world has become crippled by the ideal of always succeeding. I think the best ideas come from the failures of others. I think that people need to realize that failure is okay and will lead to more success later. I wonder how you can help people with this idea?

  • Keeli Gilbert

    Oh my word. This is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I need to take this definition into consideration and start thinking that way because right now, as a college student trying to figure out what the heck she want’s to do, I feel like I am “failing” at quit a few things! Love, school, job hunting, etc.
    This is a great thing to remember, instead of failing and failure I sort of think more that it’s just not working right now, but there will be right time and place for whatever it is that I am wanting to do. Right now, it’s figuring out what I want to do with my life, and right now, I’m just thinking “It will come to me when the time is right.” This certainly isn’t stopping me from looking and soul searching by any means, but it still is my head.
    What is your motivation when you feel you are “failing?”

  • Jessica Walker

    I feel that many people need to read the new Unreasonable definition of failure. You are so right –we view failure as a negative, when really it is a great learning system and a stepping stone to reach your goals. Yes, it would be humiliating to get turned down if you ask somebody out on a date, but really, how long are you humiliated for? Maybe a few minutes, who knows maybe a few days. But think if you ask the person out, and they are willing to give it a shot. A few dates turn into a few months, next thing you know, you are talking about a future together. That potential brief moment of humiliation now turned into a life partner. Take risks, go out of your comfort zone. If it’s something you really want to do, go do it and worry about the outcome when it happens.

  • joele

    Great thinking-you fail if you fail to try and fail if you fail to learn; thus failure leads to next big things; but it is really not failure, the new definition proposed is what is needed. Great article.

  • ZakFritz

    This is a great idea! There have been a ridiculous amount of times I did not start a task because I was afraid to “fail.” If we started using your new definition for the word failure I would have definitely started these tasks, and may have done alright on them, who knows. The pint is I would have started something new and would probably be farther in life than I am already.

  • ZakFritz

    This makes a lot of sense. You have to keep on going until you succeed sometimes. What is the most amount of “failures” you have experienced before succeeding?

  • Amy Pham

    It really depends on what my plan is. The most failures I have had before succeeding with be three times of trying. I know some people might get more some might get less, but if you keep on trying and don’t give up you will be succeed eventually.

  • Kendra Larson

    I feel like I was meant to read your article. I had a dream. I had and still do have a love for music and singing, and I wanted to pursue that dream and become a musician. However, since I can not read music that well, I simply stopped pursuing that dream. Simply, I have felt that I am not good enough to make it to the top. To become a singer, and perform for thousands of people is a dream that I’ve always wanted to achieve but I am afraid of failure. Have you ever had a dream that you wanted to pursue, but didn’t because you were afraid of failure? Did you overcome the fear of failure? if so, how were you able to overcome it? Thank you for sharing.

  • Alessandro Paredes

    I think this is a great idea. Simply changing the normal thought process that most people have when they are faced with a challenge will help people push past the fear of failure. Having a different perspective on what failure is will push society into trying more things, increase innovation and inventions. Changing what is associated with failure from not succeeding to not trying will help future generations. I think that this concept needs to be implemented into school systems around the world. People learn patterns of behavior and thought processes when they are young. If we can change the way we teach kids to approach problems without the fear of failure, the world will be better off. Thanks for the article.

  • Leahrebout

    Love this article! Failure is such a scary thought to us mainly because of what people may think of you after. It’s hard to get passed the doubt and the possibility of making a mistake or letting people down. I think everybody needs to start going into things knowing they might fail and immediately going to what changes they can make if they do, or how can i improve this, and always try again. Second chances are so important, why wouldn’t someone take it? Everything could be different. How would you suggest someone get past the chance of failure and go for it anyways?

  • Emily Pihlstrom

    “The antonyms for failure are inaction, cowardice, and acting unethically.” This is perfect. It’s sometimes so hard to start some things because of the fear that even if I try but do poorly, it was not worth the effort in the beginning. This re-definition will get rid of that feeling of “not succeeding” and encourage myself and others to not give up so easily, often before we even begin.

  • GraceFelion

    I love this article. I often am afraid of failure. I want desperately to be a success at all things I do but I know that simply is not possible. If I am able to think about failure and success in a different light then perhaps starting things won’t be so scary. I truly will try to live this idea. Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with the fear of failure?

  • Kevin Weber

    I agree with you. Taking the word “fail” and learning from it, can make us more successful the next time around. You find out who you really are by what you do when something gets tough. By learning from your mistakes, you become better at what you do! Thanks for the post!

  • Leija2014

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment! I think everyone wants to be successful, some more than others, but are afraid to take risks. You’re right about what you said about thinking about failure and success in a different light because if you already have the outlook that you’re going to fail, then you’re going to fail. Already having that negative mindset puts you in that position for failure.

  • Sam Kuchenreuther

    Very very true!

  • Tammy Hartmann

    “I think we need to re-brand the definition of failure and our conceptions of it entirely. The fear of failure stops too many great minds from creating something meaningful in the world.” Exactly! I often feel Americans have not allowed entrepreneurs to embrace failure as a learning journey. That makes me think about how important it is to have the right networking and how they do it to be there for you. Often, people fail to have good quality support.

    Daniel, thank you for sharing and love your new definition in the unreasonable dictionary.

  • Jen McKiernan

    Thank you for this article. I think it is so important to be reminded of this. One quote I really like that fits perfectly with this article is ” You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” I am at fault for holding back because of fear at times but that is something I am going to work on. No one should ever miss out on a great opportunity because of their fear.

  • Chris Williams

    This article is great. Normally, the previous definition of failure is so simple, we all know the old one, so when we change something from the old one, we find the new one is clearer. Some times our goal of one thing is not expected than the reality. But it is not called failure. The new one:” To not start doing something you believe in. To stop doing something you believe in just because it is hard.” I love this conception, also this sentence reflect another question, what is the success and what is failure? Personally, I think when someone keeps doing the working without any complain, that is success. If not, it is failure?

  • Collin Smith

    Thank you so much for the article! It is brilliantly written. I would completely agree with you and your new definition of failure. It gives a whole new point of view to the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Success is important, but the first step is taking action. Without action, success is never attainable. A quote my friend shared with me once was “I tried but failed today, but I didn’t fail to try.” I think the most important part of failure is learning what doesn’t work, allowing an individual to try a new idea. Again, thank you for the article!

  • Lindsay Burke

    I really love this post! SO, SO many people don’t do what they are passionate about because they are too afraid that they wont make a lot of money from it or that it wont pan out in the end. I think people need to turn there perspective around and see that any any failures in life can be used as a learning experience. Sure, its possible to put everything you have into a project, an idea, or a business and it may not work out. This shouldn’t be the stopping point for people. You can only go up from a failure, so there is no reason why you should not put everything you have into what you do. It may fail, but on the other end it may flourish greatly. I completely agree that we need to transform our mind set and see failures as an opportunity, rather than a pit fall of a person.

  • Ryan Dewane

    I think this is extremely valuable. So many people including myself hold back from doing things simply because we are scared to be scrutinized and criticized for not doing something the ‘right’ way. Failure is our greatest teacher and it allows us to take more risks to eventually reach our end goal

  • Sophie Miller

    I love these new definitions for the concept of failure. The first definition seems to apply more to “learning” than “failure.” It seems that by not trying, we relinquish our passions and settle. I whole-heartedly agree that inaction is highly correlated with the true definition of failure. Thank you for this post!

  • Jennifer Lynn

    I like that you say it can be a positive experience because it truly can be. I try to make the most of the ups and downs along the way. I mean of course we are all going to feel like failures once and a while, it’s only human, but if we don’t get back up and try again we will never experience what it’s like to be successful. I have been an athlete all my life and where I’m from that’s just what everyone was (farm kid/athlete). If I hadn’t tried becoming a track athlete I would never have become a college athlete and who knows where my life would be. I think people just have to understand that success often comes after failure, even if you have to fail multiple times.

  • masterdan55

    This is an inspiring article. You should always do what you feel and never fail. If you wanna do something go out there and do it and don’t wait. Life is short and you should be on your high horse to do what makes you happy in life.

  • masterdan55

    I agree with you! Failure can lead to the next big thing. If you don’t fail you can never learn from your failures. The new definition of failure is awesome.

  • Josh Pritchard

    I think everyone has a fear of failing something. Whether or not it’s more schooling or quitting your job to take another, there is always that fear. What if you do fail at that one thing, what do you do next? I agree that changing the definition could be really easy but it would be very difficult to put into action.

  • Amy Rink

    I liked what you said about you can only go up from failure, it’s 100% true! Like you said, to many people a lot of people too scared to fail. If you are truly passionate about something, nothing should be stopping you from chasing your dreams, even failure.

  • Angela Hoch

    That is honestly so true about always doing what you feel and never letting yourself fail. There are so many people out there to pick careers or career paths that aren’t what they truly want to do. I want to wake up in the morning and actually be kind of excited to go to work since it’s something I’m going to be doing for the “rest of my life.” I don’t want to dread going to work everyday and wish I did something different. Like you said, life is short, and you need to do what makes you happy.

  • Jen McKiernan

    I agree with you Gina! I agree that fear of failure stops us from doing great things. We can accomplish so much more if we are just willing to try and even if we fail we can take that opportunity to learn and to grow from our mistakes.

  • Evan Hibbs

    I agree Zak. At times I worry about the fear of failure and the negative aspects of something instead of the positive outlook. This article made me change my thinking.

  • Taylor Bolibol

    This is an extremely valuable article to my generation. There is so much opportunity for us right now which also means more opportunity to fail and I think that this holds people back. We all get one chance at this life, to make a difference, to leave our legacy. Why would we let fear hold us back from reaching our full potential? It doesn’t make any sense and truly is sad.

  • Angela Hoch

    Evan, that is so true .. a lot of us tend to fear failure because it’s stressed to us that failure is bad and will lead to negative things. When in reality, if we don’t fail sometimes, we won’t know what to improve upon in our lives. Sometimes failure can teach us what we don’t want, and how to get to what we do want. There’s always a learning experience involved in failing, whether it be a good one or bad one. Great points!

  • Evan Hibbs

    Very true Angela, many times we learn more from adversity and our failures, I know I have. What it usually comes down to is if we learn from our mistakes and failures because if we don’t, things won’t get better, great response Angela!

  • Jcoppa

    One thing I always try to remember is that when one door closes, two more open. I welcome failure, it guides me in the direction I am supposed to go in! It’s like a maze, a bunch of dead ends, so you backup and try another route. Eventually we’ll find our opening! But he need to have enough perseverance to be able to see that we can still push for this route, not every failure means move on! Sometimes it means push harder, and that’s where it gets really complicated!

  • jkailing

    I agree that this is one of the biggest problems. I know that for me I’m always scared of failure and if failure seems like the most likely outcome of what I’m going to do than I probably won’t do it. I think that the new definition of failure is how we should look at it from now on.

  • jkailing

    I agree and its also something that I need to work on as well. I think as a society we think that failure is something thats really bad, but in reality failure means you are just learning something to improve upon next time. Im going to try and remember this article next time I want to do something even though i know that theres a chance of failure.

  • jkailing

    I agree with this I think that if failure was looked at like this instead of something bad then people wouldn’t be as scared to try new things. I think that a new definition is needed and we need to look at failure with this new definition.

  • Tim Rutkowski

    I do as well am faced with the adversity of failure occasionally. I truly enjoy the article and everything that it stands for. Daniel always does a great job of posting a blog that is meaningful for the general public.

  • Max Rude

    I love that saying of Life is short and you should be on your high horse to do what makes you happy in life. I am going to challenge myself to live like this.

  • Branden Unger

    This is a great article! If people ignored the consequences of “failure” and pursued their goals whole-heartedly who knows what could be accomplished as a result. People should look at failure as a learning experience and apply it to their next attempt instead of giving up or not trying at all. I really like the idea that we must adopt a new definition of failure and change what it means entirely, then maybe more people would go for their goals instead of wondering what could have happened.

  • kolinjk29

    This was a great article. I will use this information in the future. So many people just pick jobs because of the money and not because of happiness. These can lead to bad choices in the future. Something that will bring lifelong happiness makes all the better. Great post!

  • mhansen11

    Thank you so much for this article! Honestly it has been so inspiring. I loved how you talked about the two different definitons of failure… Of course the first one being not succeeding, but I loved the second one. Not even trying something that you truly believe in. That means so much to me. If you truly care about something, go for it, whatever it may be. Be true to yourself and never give up on what you belibe in!

  • mhansen11

    I completely agree with this! Ignoring failure and kep on going is so important. Evem if you don’t succeed the first time, you haven’t failed. You just get another chance to do it a different way that’s all. Put everything into what you believe and you can accomplish so much.

  • mhansen11

    I agree with you! Not trying your fullest in anything you do is just being a coward.. In order to be successful at anything in life, you have to be true to yourself and the people around you to be the best person you can be. I liked how you said encourage yourself.. That is needed in overcoming your fears and doing what you really want in life.

  • mhansen11

    I completely agree with you here. Too many people today are just afraid of even trying so they don’t go after what they actually want in life. It’s sad, but if people would realize it’s okay to not get it right the first time, you learn from your failures…but you can never give up hope to what your goal is.

  • Robert Genovese

    well said, thank you for the article.

  • Logic

    Fail. The author (and most of the people commenting) doesn’t have a firm grasp on what “synonym” and “antonym” mean. Unless my 7th grade English teacher was lying to me (which is certainly possible coming from a public school) synonym = same and antonym = opposite. The opposite of “to not start doing something you believe in” (which is what the author defines as failure) is “action” (starting something you believe in) not inaction like this article presupposes. Inaction is a word that describes “to not start doing something you believe in.” The author hasn’t changed the definition of failure, he’s changed the definition of antonym. This might be a good thing considering his stance on “failure.”

  • Caroline92507

    Thanks, I was just about to say the same thing! The central idea of this article is great but the definition/antonym element makes no sense.

  • Lashel Princess Knievil Devich

    Oh, both of you (well, really more Capitan Logic), chill out and stop spewing bile — that just makes the world crappier. He meant/should’ve used ‘synonym’ a couple places he used ‘antonym’, which screwed him up in the last paragraph, but it’s a good perspective, and he’s actively, genuinely effecting good in the world. Flaming and snark just create a whole slew (slough?) of [insert preferred antonym of good here]. Use your powers for good.

  • Logic

    Oh, princess, at the expense of looking antagonistic, I think words matter in the context of shifting perspectives by changing the definitions of words (and using the appropriate word for a particular situation [e.g. slough*]). The entire article hinges on the author defining words correctly.

    His intentions are good, I’ll give you that. I think people should do what they believe in, too. However, using economic terms (success/fail; synonym = profitable/not-profitable) of evaluation is what causes inaction. People don’t follow their dreams because usually those dreams won’t make them any money. Which, in a capitalist world, is fair. A permutation of following your dreams and creating opportunities for yourself that will make you money is what should be focused on. But who am I… but a small business owner that enjoys fly-fishing on the weekends.

  • Lashel Princess Knievil Devich

    Fair enough. With a touch of ‘he!!, yeah!’ in that last bit.

  • Lashel Princess Knievil Devich

    Erm, the ‘he!!, yeah!’ was for the penultimate sentence.

  • Lashel Princess Knievil Devich

    But also go, small business owners! Woot wooot!

  • Gantz002

    Meaningful article, I am sure there are many people out their that have experienced failure and looked at it with a negative aspect. This article tells us that we should not use failure as a means to quit but as a means to continue to your dreams and aspirations for greatness.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for writing this valuable article. I am the type of person that fears failure, I try to avoid it at all costs and when I do inevitably have to face it, it’s a difficult concept for me to understand, deal with and most importantly, move on from. This article can really prove to people that failure does not mean you have you are inadequate, it just means you can try again and do better. I also try to believe that failure in something can lead to a chance to improve and succeed in something else…it can open the door for new opportunities. What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing failure and is struggling to find motivation to get out of the cycle? For example an overweight person who is trying to eat healthily but on occasions binge eats which makes them feel like they have failed.

  • Dena Keizer

    This article is short but straight to the point! We need to stop being afraid of failure and just go out there and try! I have a list of things i haven’t pursued because I’ve been too afraid of failing at it. There are some pretty good words to live by in this article such as “embracing failure as a learning journey”. I like it!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • Mizu4TheWin

    I would say that what really needs to be redefined is how people treat failure. When it comes to school, specifically, I think there needs to be some serious revision. As an honors student, failure is something that leaves me cowering in fear to the point of anxiety attacks. Failure needs to be seen as a way to move forward with learning from mistakes rather than what it is seen as now. I could probably write a whole article on the subject.

  • David Vega

    I think this article gets into some excellent territory, as there is a large stigma towards failure that keeps countless people from pursuing their goals and dreams, but the author falls short in reaching this territory and expanding upon it. The main focus should be in encouraging others to see failure differently, not in the antonym metaphor employed by Epstein, but in a more literal sense toward life. In order to change the meaning of failure, we must also redefine success. Countless people envision a successful life as a wealthy life, and a failure’s life as low-income, unstable in finances and job security. Despite many of us eventually realizing the difference, the stigma towards failure is already deeply embedded into our minds, and this keeps many of us from pursuing the things we truly want in life. By starting with teaching this mindset to the younger generations, and encouraging them to take risks, and see “failure” as an opportunity to try something new and learn from past mistakes, we could see a future of passionate entrepreneurs who don’t see failure as a dead end, but an obstacle to their end goal of success.

  • justinAKmulligan

    Thank you Daniel!!

    What a great opportunity to redefine words communally in true Change Maker style. I would love to see those who have overcome failure, understand it, can see the benefit of aiding in the clear definition of each form of the word, doing so. I propose truly opening up this to allow the survival of the fittest definitions. With the goal of retraining our minds to no longer have this fear, but a healthy respect for the possibility and what causes it.

    I personally love the idea of redefining failure, to trick my mind with the truth. My input for the definition is a couple of things. More like sub definitions. I would suggest an open to evolving definition, communally polished. You really are on to something here.

    #1 It is not an end unless left to be one; not succeeding does not mean it ends with failure.
    #2 Failure is not a failure, it is a learning point/experience. A synonym could be “Mistake” a miss taken shot, such as aiming for the bulls eye with a bow and arrow with the outcome of missing anywhere from wide to barely. A missed shot, all one needs to overcome the miss is take another shot, or maybe just learn how to aim.

    Striving to improve our aim and the accuracy thereafter.

    Just my Ideas, nothing more
    I feel others should keep adding their Ideas on the subject

    Cheers,
    Justin Mulligan
    AK means that I am Alaskan and I love adventure and the endless frontier of Creation

  • atozzi

    Can’t go anywhere if you don’t leap. Sure you may fail, but I agree with this Articles definition of failure. As long as you have learned from your experience and went for it regardless of the potential ‘failure’ then you have succeeded because you took something from the experience.