Trained for Failure

They say success has many fathers. Failure is orphan.

When I worked in downtown Chicago, we once went for an office team lunch. While walking back to the office, my co-worker Steve and I started chatting. He seemed happy and I asked why..He told me, more than happy he was relieved actually. He said his teenage daughter had just had her first break up and she was super upset and sad and depressed..

I was confused - why would that make him happy? He went on to explain that he saw this break up as a life lesson that no book can teach her. She will eventually get over it but more importantly she'll learn to negotiate failure and that will lead her to bigger and durable success.. He basically wanted her to develop a strong mind to handle disappointments.

That conversation stuck with me for long. Being a person of Indian origin and ethnicity and being born in a conservative small town environment - the idea of teenage romance and "breakup" itself was too much for me to digest. But going beyond that, I found maturity shown by Steve refreshingly fascinating.

I read this very sad but interesting article recently. I am copying a snippet of it here..

There was a very brilliant boy. He always scored 100% in science. Got selected for IIT, Madras and scored excellent in IIT. He proceeded to the University of California for his MBA, got a high paying job in America and settled there. 

Married a beautiful girl, bought a 5 bedroom house and luxury cars. He had everything that makes him successful but a few years ago he committed suicide after shooting his wife and children.

So what went wrong?

California Institute of Clinical Psychology studied his case under "what went wrong"… The Researchers met the boy’s friends and family and found that he lost his job due to America’s economic crisis and he had to sit without a job for a long time.

After even reducing his previous salary amount, he didn’t get any job. Then his house installment broke and he and his family lost the home. They survived a few months with low money and then he and his wife together decided to commit suicide. He first shot his wife and children and then shot himself.

The summary of this story is - That young man was not trained to handle Failures

In the story above it seems this man never had a setback in his life. He got straight 'A's in school, went to a great university, had a great job, married at right age and had children at right time and he made a beautiful home. Basically he built a "Picture Perfect" life for himself and followed a smooth straight trajectory to "success". 

He was living the American Dream and suddenly, a crisis hit him. And he could not handle it. That one blow was enough for him to take such devastating step.

There's a simple take away from this. Disappointments, setbacks, failures are as important in life as success. Important life lessons cannot be taught only by success. Failure is a great teacher, if you care to learn from it, that is..

I realized later why Steve was happy at his teenage daughter's heartbreak. He was practical and kept a long term view of this. He knew it was a passing phase for his girl. 

"Success is not final; Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts" - Winston Churchill


  1. What a profound blog? To fail and to persevere is the essence of a mature, realistic and driven person. The series 'The Food that made America' cites time & time again where the titans of industry failed. Heinz was jailed at one time because he couldn't pay his debt, but after being released from jail, with significant work, created an empire. A fantastic life lesson to be learned from your blog.


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