“If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”
-Seth Godin

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
-Michael Jordan

Everybody Fails:

Success from failure

What was the last thing you failed at? Was it a small failure, like forgetting to buy milk last night so you had to have toast instead of cereal? Or was it monumental, like a business venture you poured years and countless dollars into falling apart?

The business world is like the racetrack. We’re constantly looking over our shoulders to see how our competitors are doing. We think of a fail as a stumble, a chance for others to take the lead. Failure is not a stumble; it is a teacher. And those who fail the most, tend to succeed the most.

How Failure Makes You Successful:

Seth Godin, our modern bard of failure, spells out the link between failure and success.

  • People who fear failure don’t take chances. When opportunities arise they stay a part of the chorus while others seize the spotlight.
  • You usually fail because you’ve engaged with a project and taken on specific, measurable goals.
  • The definition of the goal is what drives us to success. If we keep the goals vague, we will neither fail nor can we ever really succeed.
  • If you fail, you know how to change your actions for next time. If you succeed, your success is measurable and real.

Instead of thinking of failure as a stumble, think of it as the opportunity to be able to look at your mistakes in the eye and learn from them. People who don’t invite failure never get that opportunity.

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, employees assemble for “Failure Fests”. Instead of ostracizing those who fail, they’re recognized as taking a chance and the team discusses what lessons they can learn for next time.

Do You Invite Failure:

All the business theory aside, failure still sucks when it happens. You feel like a deflated balloon, and it seems like a long road to inflate yourself again. So what kind of person invites it to happen?

You probably won’t fail a lot if you:

  • Never take risks or tackle ambitious projects
  • Stay safely and anonymously in the background
  • Blame others for when things go wrong
  • Worry about everyone else’s project but your own
  • Not establish measurable, accountable goals for yourself

The person who fails is the person who takes risks, differentiates themselves from the crowd, and who is confident enough to look their own mistakes in the eye. If things don’t work out, they resist the urge to blame others and take responsibility.

Learning how to, in Seth Godin’s words, succeed at failing builds the attitude that will propel you to success. Accepting our failures conditions us to achieve success.