Optimists are Failures

To look at, Jonny Harris and Winston Churchill don’t have a lot in common*, but they do share this one belief; difficulties lead to opportunities.

As a designer, Jonny has managed to grasp one key life lesson: Failure leads you to great solutions. In his words: “I think if I was constantly concerned by not being able to make something look good instantly I would be a very anxious designer; the fear of failure is washed away when you realise that it is only by using a process of trial and error that you end up at a great answer”. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

It kind of seems counter intuitive to marry failure with optimism. I think we instinctively sense that optimism is only felt when we are not failing or trying very hard to ignore our failings or the failings of others. But as Jonny has discovered optimism is looking failure in the face and pressing on.

It is very easy to find examples of successful people who have failed and yet turned into big successes. Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, the list goes on. But it’s not clear from these reports how many of them felt, at the time they were failing, that this was a good process that needed to happen in order to succeed? What Jonny is explaining here is not looking back at the setbacks in his design career and realising they turned out good in the end, he’s talking about daily, consistent perseverance of failing and failing until something good sticks: embracing failure.

Thanks for being this week’s case study Jonny! And if anyone has any comments about this concept of failure and optimism going hand-in-hand I’d love to hear your comments.

*I’m referring to Jonny Harris, the designer and personal acquaintance, not Jonny Harris the comedian. Although neither are as jowly as Churchill.


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