What does failure mean, and how do we respond to failure? Here are some quotations that express a variety of responses to such questions.

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My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.

— Abraham Lincoln

One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.

— Abraham Maslow

People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property; there is a huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failure; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.

— Albert Bandura

A man who doubts himself is like a man who enlists in the ranks of the enemy and bears arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by being the first to be convinced of it.

— Alexander Dumas

Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.

— Amelia Earhart

Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.

— Amilcar Cabral

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

— Anaïs Nin

Don’t let one cloud obliterate the whole sky.

— Anaïs Nin

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose — not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.

— Anne Sullivan

Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.

— Anne Sullivan

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

— Babe Ruth

Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.

— Babe Ruth

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.

— Barack Obama

We will not succeed at all these things, certainly not all at once, but–if I may end with my own personal secret of happiness–we can have a good time trying.

— Barbara Ehrenreich

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

— Beverly Sills

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

— Carl Bard

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

— Edward de Bono

No man is defeated without until he has first been defeated within.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws but for potential.

— Ellen Goodman

When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.

— Epictetus

The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.

— Eugene Delacrois

If I fall, I will fall five-feet four-inches forward in the fight for freedom.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

The condition of all progress is experience. We go wrong a thousand times before we find the right path. We struggle, and grope, and hurt ourselves until we learn the use of things, and this is true of things spiritual as well as of material things. Pain is unavoidable, but it acquires a new and higher meaning when we perceive that it is the price humanity must pay for an invaluable good.

— Felix Adler

An architect’s most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board, and a wrecking bar at the site.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

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

— George Bernard Shaw

It is never too late to be who you might have been.

— George Eliot

People don’t become leaders because they never fail. They become leaders because of the way they respond to failure.

— Gerald M. Weinberg

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.

— Henry Ford

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.

— Herbert B. Swope

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.

— It’s a Wonderful Life

Failure is inevitable — make it a strength,

— J. K. Rowling

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.

— James Yorke

What after all, has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities, and courage to advocate them?

— Jane Addams

Falsehood is the jockey of misfortune.

— Jean Giraudoux, Siegfried

It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to evolutionary and psychological transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells.

— Joanna Macy

One may summon his philosophy when they are beaten in battle, not till then.

— John Burroughs

Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.

— John Keats

On the whole, it is patience which makes the final difference between those who succeed or fail in all things. All the greatest people have it in an infinite degree, and among the less, the patient weak ones always conquer the impatient strong.

— John Ruskin

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

— John Wooden

Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning. We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.

— Joy Harjo

I would rather stay positive and get 50 percent good results, than stay negative and get 100 percent bad results!

— Joyce Meyer

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell?’ attitude.

— Julia Child

It’s hard to suck at something if you don’t have a sense of play, and if you don’t know how to play, you’ll never suck at something.

— Karen Rinaldi

The way in which man [sic] approaches his failure determines what he will become.

— Karl Jaspers

You won’t skid if you stay in a rut.

— Kin Hubbard

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

— L.R. Knost

Life doesn’t always get better.
But you do. You get stronger.
You get wiser. You get softer.
With tattered wings you rise.
And the world watches in wonder
at the breathless beauty of
a human who survived life.

— L.R. Knost

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

— L.R. Knost

There are two kinds of failures: those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought.

— Laurence J. Peter
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