Redefining ‘failure’

This week on “Anderson,” host Anderson Cooper spoke to Sara Blakely, founder and inventor of Spanx, the body shaper that revolutionized the way women dress.

She’s also the youngest billionaire — yes, BILLION-aire — in history.

What intrigued me most about this fax machine saleswoman-turned-entrepreneur extraordinaire was her attitude about failure.

“Instead of failure being the outcome, failure became not trying,” she told Cooper. “It forced me at a young age to want to push myself so much farther out of my comfort zone.”

She said failing the LSAT was devastating, as her dream was to become a lawyer. But failing that only put her life on a different course, one that has led her to a career — and life — she loves.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a strange relationship with failure. I never thought about it much when I was younger; I just set a goal and aimed for it. But now — after experiencing failures and setbacks and the kind of obstacles that make you want to stay in bed for six weeks — I feel a little anxious and gunshy about taking risks.

But why?

When did our courage disappear, the space filled with worry and fear?

I love what Blakely said about failure, that true failure is not trying.

Imagine all the things we could achieve if we had that attitude! I might’ve invented Spanx 10 years ago!

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4 Responses to “Redefining ‘failure’”

  1. Annoddah Dave March 21, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    CAT: I admit ignorance. I do not know Spanx…I do know Spandex. I know I need something to hide my increasing girth. I am realizing failure as I look for a new job but no seems to want to hire an old fat dude. You already know the poor part. I think I may need to start something for myself and maybe become the oldest billionaire!??

  2. M March 21, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Hello Cat!
    Failure is part of the road to being successful.

  3. David Jackson March 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Finally something in my wheelhouse. Entrepreneurs are unique animals in that they do not fear uncertainty and grasp the difference between an idea and an opportunity. Some people are idea fountains… I call them idiots… haven’t even started work on the first idea before they launch on another one. Entrepreneurs understand how to determine what resources are needed to make things happen. THEY DO NOT FEAR FAILURE. Their attitude is whatever you think of them is none of their business. And they are usually thought of as world class wing nuts by most people. Whether sailing the Caribbean or sleeping in a car they are usually OK as long as they have something they consider interesting to kick around. But I think the thing that separates real Entrepreneurs from the wannabes who walk around mumbling about disrupting ecosystems and crowd sourcing is the ability to hold two opposite points of view with great comfort. It allows them to see all sides to issues. It sets them apart. And they are rare, repeat rare creatures.

  4. NEO March 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Hi Cat,

    Just thought this was appropriate for this blog about failure… It’s from “Rocky Balboa”

    The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

    Go and be awesome Cat! Cuz y’know, you already are…

    NEO

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