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“Failure and its accompanying misery is for the artist his most vital source of creative energy.” —Montgomery Clift

The Museum of Failure, which launched in Sweden, features a large assortment of products and services that flopped in the marketplace, such as Colgate’s beef lasagna frozen dinner and a gyrating “hula chair” for exercise. “One of the big obstacles to innovation is the fear of failure,” says the exhibition’s curator Samuel West, a clinical psychologist and innovation researcher. “I want visitors to recognize that failure is an essential aspect of progress and innovation.” Visitors are invited to jot down perceived personal failures on a sticky note and post it on the “Share Your Failure” wall, which is populated with countless confessions including “afraid to act on ideas,” “breaking up with the love of my life,” and “not creating boundaries.”

If such a wall existed for actors, it would likewise be full of regretful notes such as, failing to fully prepare for a role, missing the mark during an audition, a project that failed despite stellar efforts to make it succeed, passing on an opportunity that went on to be a big hit, not committing to diligently learn the craft, not making the most of industry contacts, and more. Certainly every actor that shines on the silver screen has battled a number of failures along the journey, and there are certainly no guarantees that each new performance will end in triumph. When it comes to creating a compelling work of art, the risk of failing is a significant part of the process.
Here are some actors’ thoughts on the role that failure has played in their development:

Failure is inevitable

“You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it: You will lose, you will embarrass yourself, you will suck at something. There’s no doubt about it. I was a 1.8 GPA one semester, and the university very politely suggested that it might be better to take some time off. I was 20 years old; I was at my lowest point. But here’s the thing: I didn’t quit. I didn’t fall back, but I continued to fail and fail and fail. But it didn’t matter, because you know what? There’s an old saying. “You hang around the barbershop long enough; sooner or later you’re going to get a haircut.’ So you will catch a break. I did catch a break.” —Denzel Washington

“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

Failure instructs

“You learn from the mistakes you make and from the mistakes other people make. The truth is, you don’t learn from success; you learn from failure.” —George Clooney

“Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s not the end of the world, and in many ways, it’s the first step toward learning something and getting better at it.” —Jon Hamm

“There are no regrets in life—just lessons.” —Jennifer Aniston

“We dissect failure a lot more than we dissect success.” —Matthew McConaughey

Failure strengthens

“Life is very interesting … in the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.” —Drew Barrymore

“Failure’s not a bad thing. It builds character. It makes you stronger.” —Billy Dee Williams

Failure clarifies responsibility

“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.” —Erin Cummings

“[The box-office bomb ‘Explorers’ (1985)] was a great lesson for me. You know, just to have failure right off the bat, and to see that everything’s not going to get handed to you.” —Ethan Hawke

Be courageous and risk failure

“If you know you’re going to fail, then fail gloriously!” —Cate Blanchett

“Acting is really about having the courage to fail in front of people.” —Adam Driver

“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all your glory.” —Jim Carrey

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.” —Charlie Chaplin

“It’s tough, acting. You have to walk two lines of a tightrope. There’s the all-consuming fear of failure … and there’s also confidence—you have to be confident to try new things—and they fight each other all the time.” —Jessica Chastian

“I don’t want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about.” —Emma Watson

“I was afraid of being a failure, of not having the best time or of being chicken. But every year I get older, I think, ‘What was I fearing last year?’ You forget. And then you move on.” —Sandra Bullock

“Growing up, I had the weird fantasy list: I wanted to be Alice Cooper, Steven Spielberg, and Stan Lee. You have to have almost psychotic drive, because you’re going to have years of failure.” —Rob Zombie

Acknowledging yourself as separate from the failure

“I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time, but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed.” —Dolly Parton

Warning signs of failure

“The only failure is not to try.” —George Clooney

“Don’t fear failure—not failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” —Bruce Lee

“Part of being a man is learning to take responsibility for your successes and for your failures. You can’t go blaming others or being jealous. Seeing somebody else’s success as your failure is a cancerous way to live.” —Kevin Bacon

Failures refine your sense of purpose

“The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.” —Chadwick Boseman

“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” —Oprah Winfrey

“It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you’re not expressing the utmost of your human experience.” —Lupita Nyong’o

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