Modern society is success-driven. It does not consider failure as an option. Failure is deemed as a deficiency. Nobody wants to fail. Failure can be understood in juxtaposition with success. Failure is defined as lack of success.
When something remains unfulfilled, it is termed as failure. If X starts off with an intention to get a college degree but is unable to complete the four years of graduation, he is said to fail.
Failure is also perceived in terms of certain set criteria. For example, if getting thirty-five marks out of hundred is considered to be necessary for passing an examination, getting less than thirty-five marks out of hundred indicates failure.
Sometimes, the criteria for failure are ambiguous or ill-defined, and it becomes difficult to ascertain failure or success. For example, given that the ability to write a good composition on a topic is to succeed, it is difficult to understand failure because the word ‘ good’ is not clearly and specifically explained.
Criteria for failure depend upon context. When an individual does not study well enough to score a minimum thirty-five marks out of hundred, it is failure on his part. He is responsible for his failure. However, when the brakes of a car fail to function, or if the brakes of a car are tampered with, nobody can be held responsible. A company may spend several years and invest a huge amount of money on developing a new product after an extensive market survey. Yet, the product may fail in the market. The company cannot be held responsible for the failure; the product was destined to fail. Failure of a product or a new concept is a commercial failure.
Failure is a relative concept. Failure for one person may imply success for another. When two political parties contest an election, the failure of one spells success for the other.
Not reaching one’s full potential is a sign of failure. If a student is capable of getting distinction marks, but ends up passing with average marks it is looked upon as failure.
Optimists do not consider failure as a negative concept. They believe that failure is the greatest teacher in life, because every failed attempt points out mistakes which can be rectified in future attempts. The success of great figures in history can be traced to earlier failures. In this sense, failure is considered to be a success by optimists.
Fearing failure cannot lead an individual to success. Success depends upon risk, and failure is a by-product. One must be prepared to accept challenges and take risks. Of course the risks should be calculated. It would be foolish to launch an ambitious project without sufficient preparation and an understanding of one’s skills, talents and limitations.
Perception about failure differs according to interests and motives. For those who are interested in the final outcome, a case that ends successfully is an instance of success. While trying out a new recipe, if the final dish is tasty and perfect, it is a case of great success. Many things may have gone wrong while preparing the dish, so the process of preparing the dish is a failure. A scientific experiment is another good example. The old scientists failed in preparing a cure for all diseases. The final outcome was a failure. However, valuable discoveries were made during the process, which was a part of success.
Ultimately, the meaning of failure is contextual and relative It depends upon perception. Edison failed one thousand times before he succeeded in making the electric bulb. When a reporter asked him what he thought about the failures, he replied that they were not failures; the invention of the bulb consisted of one thousand steps.
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