A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

A Quote on Failure & Success

L’échec est le fondement de la réussite.”

I bought a bag from a charity shop with those words on them when I was fifteen. I knew enough French to know what “est le fondement de la réussite” meant, but not the first word. I showed my French teacher on the Monday.

“Failure,” she said. “It means failure.”

At fifteen, I didn’t really get it. I was such a Type A personality as a teen. I mean, I still am, but back then an A- would make me cry for an hour. I’m not joking. Perfectionism had caused problems for me–overworking myself in school, acute anxiety, an eating disorder, and a constant, internal refrain that I wasn’t good enough. How was failing even an option, much less a foundation for success?

The original quote is a paradox by Lao-Tzu, and the full saying is: “Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come?”

It wasn’t until I started writing that I understood that failure is the foundation of success. That it’s okay to fail, as long as you don’t let it beat you.

Every time you turn around, there’s going to be a technical failure as a writer, or a lot of them, before there’s a success. You’ll write a first draft and it’ll be an ugly thing. You send it to betas and they tell you all its little failings (and its successes, too). You fix it. Maybe you fix it again. You send it to agents. They reject it, maybe many reject it, before you find one who wants it. Ditto to editors. And then at the end, maybe you’re technically rejected by readers.

That can be a pessimistic way to look at it.

Or you say, yeah, all that happened. I was rejected. But you can keep on keeping on, until the “no” becomes a “yes.” Each failing you put yourself out there, and that is one step closer to where you want to be.

I had my own journey, and my own failings. This time last year, I’d had what felt like a very big failure (my third book in the Micah Grey series being rejected) and was seriously considering quitting writing, or at least taking a long hiatus. I’m very glad I didn’t, because there was a lot of success waiting for me around the corner. I changed directions and wrote an adult thriller. It sold last summer. Now I’m a full-time writer, a dream I’d had since I was fifteen and bought that bag, but that dream always seemed impossible.

So don’t see your setbacks as failures. See them as foundations of success.

But if you don’t want to listen to me, JK Rowling says the same thing. 🙂



Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine. Continue reading…


About Laura Lam

Writer, Reader, Ex-pat.

2 comments on “A Quote on Failure & Success

  1. Laura Lam
    February 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on Laura Lam and commented:

    I wrote a blog post on the Author Allsorts blog about failure & success.

  2. Eleanor Wood
    February 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on Panoply and commented:
    Love this post by Laura Lam. Failure is an option. It’s giving up that isn’t.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on February 11, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , .

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