Failure vs. Defeat (Are You Confusing the Two?)

Failure is often a sharp, bitter, pill… And it can feel so personal, and FINAL.

But, is failure really a bad thing?

Maybe you are confusing failure with defeat?

Consider this:

  • Failure is defined as, “a lack of success.”
  • Defeat is defined as, “An unsuccessful ending to a struggle or contest.”

You can think of it this way: failure is learning from experience on the way to success, while defeat is giving up.

So, if you think about it, failure is very different than defeat. I mean, TOTALLY different.

Any journey towards a challenging goal is going to be littered with failure, (aka, “learning“) but you haven’t been defeated until you choose to give up!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – Thomas Edison

That inspiring quote comes from the man who literally invented the lightbulb; the very symbol of a good idea. Oh, and Edison was once called, “too stupid to learn anything” by one of his teachers.

Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.

Thomas Edison failed countless times, but was not defeated!

A Metaphor About Failure:

Did you ever watch someone climb the side of a mountain?

Rock climbers work slowly and deliberately. They like to grab onto rocks and give them a test before they put all their weight them. Some rocks will work, while others might just crumble, and go tumbling down the mountain.

Rock climbers change course, and learn from their mistakes to find a better route to the summit, but the good ones don’t quit.

In other words, success is not a one mile race on a track; it’s much more like climbing a mountain.

Failure Is Learning:

Also, remember that failure is not at all the same as defeat. Failure happens to everyone, and the people who have failed the most we call names… names like: expert, teacher, or even master.

‘ll be giving it my best-est,
And nothing’s going to stop me but divine intervention.
I reckon it’s again my turn,
To win some or learn some“.

– I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

So, did you fail at something?

I think you mean you learned something.

You’re Going to Fail a Lot (That’s OK!)

Let’s add “failure” to the short list of unavoidable things in life. (like death and taxes!) But, that’s OK! In fact, you could even say that failure is a good thing.

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” – Thomas Edison

You can’t have the desire to succeed and the fear of failure at the same time; you have to pick one.

If you choose to succeed, you eventually will.

It’s like that rock climbing metaphor, though. Success is not a straight path, so learn from your failures, change your course, but keep climbing!

A Final (Awesome) Quote About Failure:

“The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. It is pounded and struck repeatedly before it’s plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it’s called upon to fight.” – Sherrilyn Kenyon – Devil May Cry

Can you see what I’m getting at here?

If not, I suggest you read more inspiring quotes here!

If you have less than a thousand failures on your journey to success, consider yourself fortunate!

Author Missy Woodruff enjoys taking literal and metaphorical journeys with her family, and writes about them on her blog at

Photo credit @speckfechta via


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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