Is Failure Is A Better Teacher?

Hear me now und believe me later.”

 Hanz and Franz, coined this phrase as part of a skit in the 13th season premier of Saturday Night Live and it quickly became part of pop culture in the ‘80’s.

The message is that you might not get what’s being said right now, but seeing it in a different light sometime in the future, you may see the truth in the statement.

Though it seems counterintuitive, this catchphrase applies directly to this statement:  Failure just may be a better teacher than success.


Because, when able individuals fail, they catch their breath, dust themselves off, look at why it happened, and then correct it to operate better in the future.

However when some people succeed, often they believe they have found the secret to success and don’t even bother to examine what they did to achieve success. Then when they do fail at some future point (which is inevitable) they are without hope of change, as they don’t know why they failed.

I would much rather have someone in my corner who had been through the pain of failure and then who got back on their feet armed with the wisdom of what went wrong and how to fix it so it didn’t happen again. Please note, I’m not suggesting that you engage in reckless behavior. There is a distinct difference between calculated, considered risks and reckless irresponsibility.

But when I find someone who is willing to take a calculated risk on a chance that could result in huge advances forward, this person is far more valuable to me when the chips are down. Simply, I don’t trust someone who has “never failed” or “never lost money.”

I’d always rather have someone on my side who has the battle scars of life and who has learned from their mistakes.

George Bernard Shaw agrees:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

Failure can indeed be a better teacher than success, if you learn from their mistakes.

Never be afraid to make mistakes. The only people that never make mistakes are not in the game.

A failure is not a man who has once stumbled. Rather, it is a man who won’t use the experience to his advantage.

In other writings, I’ve said that life is a contact sport. I still hold firm to this idea.

Take your wins and your losses in stride and continue on with a lighthearted attitude toward accomplishment in spite of the challenges thrown your way.

Thrive on challenge, risk and the adventure of active involvement in life, and always expect to win and take close inventory of what occurred if you don’t. In this you learn from your failures and your successes alike.

This quote by Jack Nicholson, as R.P. McMurphy, in the 1975 movie, “One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest” illustrates the point.

While incarcerated in a mental institution after failing to escape by throwing a sink through a window, he said to the others watching him,

But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.”

I’d always prefer to be around someone who tried; and if they failed, got up, dusted themselves off, and tried again.

Failure really is a better teacher, if you let it help you, instead of avoiding it.

daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2009-2030, all rights reserved


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