9 Vital Lessons on Failure from High Achievers

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Get Inspired

Let’s be real – nobody achieves greatness without tasting failure along the way. All the superstars and big shots you admire had to overcome major setbacks and screw-ups before they reached the top.

But here’s the thing – failure is just part of the game when you’re chasing lofty ambitions.

The most successful people don’t let it stop them or derail their dreams. They take it on the chin, learn from their mistakes, and keep grinding away with that same fire.

I’m talking about visionaries like Oprah, innovators like Elon Musk, athletic legends like Michael Jordan and Serena Williams – every single one of them could tell you stories of hitting rock bottom only to rise up stronger than before. Their failures were brutal lessons that forged their mindsets and resilience.

What High Achievers Learned from Failures

So what exactly did they learn that allowed them to overcome adversity? Here are 9 vital lessons we could all benefit from when it comes to handling failures like a high achiever:

1. Failure is Unavoidable, So Embrace It

Failure is Unavoidable, Embrace it

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career…” – Michael Jordan

Look, nobody becomes wildly successful without racking up a bunch of losses first. It’s gonna happen, so you might as well accept it instead of letting failures derail your ambition. High achievers understand this – failure may suck, but it’s the price of chasing something great.

They don’t see setbacks as shameful losses, but just temporary roadblocks on the journey. Every failure is treated as a learning experience about what doesn’t work so they can eventually uncover what does. It’s all just part of the process of getting there.

2. Resilience is Everything

Resilience is Everything

“I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed.” – Tom Hopkins

Once you make peace with failure being inevitable, the vital next step is developing resilience. I’m talking about the unshakeable mental toughness that allows you to recover and continue pursuing your goals when things go awry.

Resilience means you get knocked down hard, maybe even feel like quitting at times, but you keep getting back up with that same fierce determination as before. For every punishing setback high achievers face, their resilience pushes them to work that much harder to overcome it.

True resilience isn’t just about bouncing back quickly – it’s about facing your failure head-on, feeling the full weight of that disappointment, and still finding the grit to try again from scratch. That steadfast perseverance despite all the setbacks is what separates those who keep climbing and those who give up halfway.

3. Potential is Unlimited

Potential is Unlimited

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

Part of what breeds resilience in the face of failure is the mentality of unlimited potential. High achievers don’t see skills and talents as fixed attributes you’re just born with. They deeply believe in the power of hard work, learning, and continual self-improvement to expand their capabilities.

Where others view failures as signs they’ve hit their ceiling of potential, high achievers have a growth mindset – the adamant belief that you get better by constantly pushing yourself, making mistakes, and applying those hard lessons.

Every roadblock is just an opportunity to level up and unlock more of their abilities through sheer effort.

You think Stephen Curry was just born draining 3s like that? Of course no – his absolute peak was earned through countless hours grinding away, studying his flaws, and steadily honing his shooting skills despite agonizing failures. Cultivating that growth mindset keeps ambition alive no matter how many Ls get stacked up.

4. Take Smart Risks

Take Smart Risks

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali

Another trademark quality of high achievers: they’re smart risk-takers who aren’t afraid to gamble once in a while in pursuit of something big. They know complacency and playing it safe gets you nowhere special in this world.

To achieve greatness, you have to operate outside your comfort zone and take some calculated chances that could result in massive failure but also incredible rewards. It’s all about determining when the potential upside is worth putting it all on the line.

They don’t just wing it and hope things work out – high achievers are meticulous in analyzing risk vs reward before making any power moves. And when things do fail, those painful lessons get applied to help them judge future risks and opportunities better. It’s all part of mastering their decision-making instincts.

5. Stay Agile and Flexible

Stay Agile and Flexible

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the reality: no plan or strategy survives its first contact with actual reality 100% intact. Things never unfold perfectly according to design, no matter how brilliant and meticulous you are. Roadblocks, new variables, blindsided failures – they’re inevitable when reaching for something ambitious.

That’s why one of the most crucial lessons in overcoming adversity is the value of adaptability and agility. When high achievers encounter those course-altering failures that reveal flaws in their approach, they don’t dig in stubbornly and keep running into the same brick wall.

They take a step back, analyze what went wrong and why, and adapt their plan as needed to change course and seize new advantages. Victories go to the hungry entrepreneurs and athletes who can out-maneuver and react quicker to fast-changing conditions. Rigidity and hubris will bury you.

6. You Need a Crew

Build a support system

“Behind every successful person lies a pack of allies and a strong support system.” – Adrian Grenier

Let’s be crystal clear – nobody climbs their personal Everest all alone relying purely on their own strength and skills. Behind every superstar’s shining success story is a whole village of mentors, role models, coaches, teammates, friends and family that formed their crew.

This crew plays a vital role in picking you up when failures got you feeling depleted and doubtful. They remind you of your “why” when you’re lost and re-motivate you to keep chasing your wildest ambitions. Need some real talk to stop spiraling? The crew provides those humbling wake up calls and words of wisdom to keep your mindset rights.

More than moral support, your crew offers fresh perspectives and ideas to help troubleshoot your approach. They can shine a light on blind spots you couldn’t see because you’re too deep in the trenches. Most importantly, this tribe is relentlessly committed to your success, ready to make sacrifices and go to war with you.

7. Never Give Up

Never Give Up

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

Of all the lessons carved out through high achievers’ failures, this one is king: perseverance and an unwavering refusal to quit Until They Get What They Came For. Failure can’t faze these underdogs – they’ll keep taking L after L until everyone else finally gives up on them. And when the dust settles, they’re still standing tall.

I’m talking about guys like Colonel Sanders getting rejected over 1,000 times before franchising KFC into one of the biggest food brands ever. Or elite athletes like Jerry Rice and Michael Phelps – who were both laughed at early for being too small/skinny for their sports – pushing through years of self-doubt and adversity to become legends in their fields.

The greats maintain that steadfast drive because every failure is just a temporary obstacle to power through. If quitting is never an option, then no amount of setbacks can derail their hunger for success.

8. Take Control of Your Mind

Take Control of Your Mind

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Here’s the truth – failure is brutal for the psyche. It plants seeds of debilitating fear, self-doubt, insecurity, and sometimes even depression. If you let those toxic mindsets fester, they’ll leech away your motivation and eventually sabotage your long-term ambition.

The most resilient high achievers develop mental mastery – emotional awareness and concrete strategies for dealing with negative mindsets. They know how to rationally process setbacks without taking it as a personal indictment of their self-worth. They take conscious steps to re-calibrate and steady their mentality to prevent those psychological spirals.

When failures strike, they still feel all those gut-punching emotions intensely, but then proactively manage them with healthier thoughts, therapeutic outlets, confidence rebuilders, etc. That self-belief and psychological control allows them to confront their demons head-on rather than unraveling. It’s how they keep getting up off the mat.

9. Appreciate the Little Wins

Celebrate the Little Wins

“I think it’s very important to get renewal in your work and in your life. And I think time with family and friends is a great way to renew yourself.” – Oprah

At the end of the day, no matter how much adversity and failure you’ve endured in pursuit of something magnificent, nothing nourishes the soul like celebrating even the tiniest victories along the path. Those small wins are little glimmers of hope and motivation reminding you that you’re still progressing step-by-step.

Maybe it was landing your first client or customer after being laughed at for months. Maybe it was finally running a sub-6-minute mile or shedding 10 pounds after countless dieting failures. Whatever the accomplishment, no matter how minor, it’s crucial to soak in those little tastes of breakthrough success.

You gotta pause and recognize how far you’ve come since past failures. Those mini milestones keep your passion stoked and hunger for the next win sharp. They inspire you to keep chipping away, knocking down one obstacle at a time until you bust through to the greatness you envisioned. Small wins are proof you’re heading in the right direction.


So there you have it – the 9 vital lessons on failure that turned life’s highest achievers into unstoppable forces of nature. The cold hard reality is that the path to greatness is arduous, unforgiving, and littered with more missteps than you can count.

But with the right mindset, support, and the burning desire to learn from every gut-punch, failure becomes nothing more than a speedbump on your own road to success. After all, persevering through adversity is what separates the real legends from those who merely dream of greatness.