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Blog Insight & Commentary

36 Quotes About Failure That Will Lift You Up

From women, naturally

Beth Castle
Managing Editor, InHerSight

Maya Angelou joke

Failure...does not feel good. We all know this. But among successful working women, there’s a continued sense of optimism surrounding failure. To fail is to learn something new. To fail is to take a blow and rise both humbled and emboldened. 

Read enough quotes about failure and your perspective on defeat, if that’s even what you want to call it, will begin to change. Here are some delicious words of wisdom from women who were, at one point, exactly where you are.

36 quotes about failure that will lift you up

1. “To err is human, but it feels divine.” 

     —Mae West, American actress

2. “For my first show at ‘SNL’, I wrote a Bill Clinton sketch, and during our read-through, it wasn’t getting any laughs. This weight of embarrassment came over me, and I felt like I was sweating from my spine out. But I realized, ‘Okay, that happened, and I did not die.’ You’ve got to experience failure to understand that you can survive it.” 

     —Tina Fey, American actress and comedian

3. “Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. ” 

     —Cicely Tyson, American actress

4. “We’re born with success. It is only others who point out our failures, and what they attribute to us as failure.” 

     —Whoopi Goldberg, American actress and comedian

5. “The phoenix must burn to emerge.” 

     —Janet Fitch, British sociologist

6. “Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” 

     —Coco Chanel, French fashion designer

7. "You have just one life to live. It is yours. Own it, claim it, live it, do the best you can with it.”

     —Hillary Clinton, American politician, diplomat, lawyer

8. “At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your success and your failure. And the sooner you realize that, you accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful. As long as you blame others for the reason you aren’t where you want to be, you will always be a failure.” 

     —Erin Cummings, American actress

9. “I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.” 

     —Nikki Giovanni, American poet

10. “Even when you have doubts, take that step. Take chances. Mistakes are never a failure—they can be turned into wisdom.”

     —Cat Cora, American professional chef and TV personality

11. “Don’t sabotage your own greatness by succumbing to failure.” 

     —Terry McMillan, American author

12. “When I was younger, I was a bit of an achievement addict, viewing success like a ladder. I loved the high of climbing to the next rung to get a new title or raise. Today, I look at it more like a mountain with lots of beautiful peaks and valleys that are all totally worthy of my time.”

     —Michelle Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Allure Magazine

13. “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

     —Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM

14. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” 

     —Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and consultant

Read more: 24 Beyonce Quotes That’ll Make You Feel ***Flawless

15. “Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.” 

     —Martha Beck, American author

16. “My whole career has been one rejection after another and then going back and back and pushing against everything and everybody. Getting ahead by small, ugly steps.” 

     —Joan Rivers, American comedian and actress

17. “Don’t be afraid of solitary journeys. Being responsible for your successes and failures makes you stronger.” 

     —Priyanka Chopra, Indian actress

18. “Most of the reason we don’t do things is because we’re afraid to fail. I just made a decision one day that I was not going to do things in my life because of fear.” 

     —Sara Blakely, CEO of SPANX

19. “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” 

     —Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer and author

20. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

     ―Maya Angelou, American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist

21. “If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages—not to mention the myth of Icarus—predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure.”

     —Oprah Winfrey, American TV personality and all-around powerhouse

22. “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes—understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” 

     —Arianna Huffington, Greek-American businesswoman, author, and columnist

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

     ―Beverly Sills, American operatic soprano

24. “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.” 

     ―Mandy Hale, American author

25. “Life is full of screwups. You're supposed to fail sometimes. It's a required part of the human existance.” 

     ―Sarah Dessen, American author

Read more: 38 Powerful Quotes from Women Who Don't Mess Around

26. “You need to have unbound enthusiasm for what you’re building. Energy is contagious, so your team and everyone you interact with feels it.” 

     —Tyler Haney, founder of Outdoor Voices

27. “I enjoy the fun of failure. It's fun to fail, I kept repeating. It's part of being ambitious; it's part of being creative. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing badly” 

     ―Gretchen Rubin, American author and speaker

28. “I fell off my pink cloud with a thud.” 

     —Elizabeth Taylor, American actress and businesswoman

29. “Just because you fail once doesn't mean you're gonna fail at everything.” 

     ―Marilyn Monroe, American actress

30. “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” 

     ―Ellen DeGeneres, American comedian and TV personality

31. “I don't do that kind of negativity. If you put your energy into thinking about how much the fall would hurt, you're already halfway down.” 

     ―Tana French, American-Irish author

32. “To be successful, one has to be one of three bees - the queen bee, the hardest working bee, or the bee that does not fit in.” 

     ―Suzy Kassem, American writer, poet, and philosopher 

33. “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” 

     ―J.K. Rowling, British author

Read more: Insanely Relatable Hermione Granger Quotes (Plus 1 Surprise Guest)

34. “I’m living life as best I can—but I’m not exempt from failure and making bad choices.”

     —LeAnn Rimes, American singer, songwriter, actress, and author

35. “Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.” 

     ―Sabaa Tahir, American fiction writer

36. “I advise you to stop sharing your dreams with people who try to hold you back, even if they're your parents. Because, if you're the kind of person who senses there's something out there for you beyond whatever it is you're expected to do - if you want to be EXTRA-ordinary- you will not get there by hanging around a bunch of people who tell you you're not extraordinary. Instead, you will probably become as ordinary as they expect you to be.” 

     ―Kelly Cutrone, American publicist, television personality, and author

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