If you’re going to fail at something, you should probably do it right. Put some effort into failing and give it your best shot.
Okay, I’m being a little facetious here, but I do have an important point to make.
Failure is not something to be afraid of. In business and in life, failure can be a great catalyst for accomplishing bigger and better things, but only if we understand why we failed so that we can learn from it.
So what’s the right way to fail?
If you envision that the business or project you’re working on has a high probability of failure, then set yourself up with the following parameters. You need to learn how to fail fast, fail smart, and fail forward. Let’s jump right in!
First and foremost, I am using the term “failure” in the sense that it is a learning experience. If we are going to fail, we might as well do it quickly and learn as much as we can from it.
Thomas Edison was known for saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Even though he didn’t think of it as “failure,” you could argue that Thomas Edison was the prototype for failing fast and bouncing back.
I’ve witnessed many folks linger in a state of limbo with their project or business. In fact, I’ve been there myself. You know what I’m talking about; it’s when you’re not necessarily successful, nor a failure in the traditional sense. You’re just somewhere in between.
That’s not a very productive place to be. I’m not advocating that you close up shop and move on to something else. Rather, if you’re in that state of limbo with your business or project, it’s time to reevaluate what got you there and how you can get out.
But how do you reevaluate your current state? Well, that’s where “failing smart” comes in. Today, there is so much data available for just about every decision we make. Big data is a big deal. Another thing people are talking about is the concept of the “quantified self.”
The bottom line is that we can learn from all of the data points that surround us. Leverage this information when navigating through a state of failure. Make sure you’re recording as much data as possible relating to your business or your project, so that you can eventually go back and analyze it and make smart decisions.
For instance, if your social media campaign failed, look at the numbers and figure out why. If your book deal fell through, analyze every step you took to try to make it happen and find the weakest link.
If you use information in this sense, you’ll keep moving forward. Speaking of moving forward…
Last but not least, everything I’ve said about failure would be useless if you didn’t use it to catapult yourself forward towards your goals. We only benefit from failure if we use it to improve our future outlook.
Therefore, if and when you fail, immediately begin thinking about how you’ll leverage what you’ve learned to make your next shot have a much greater chance for success.
Some folks call this “failing forward.” In fact, notable author John C. Maxwell wrote a whole book on this topic, called Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success. It’s a great read, by the way!
It is this mindset of constant improvement that keeps us moving forward and allows us to accomplish great things in life.
Of course, none of this is new or revolutionary. People have been talking about “how to fail” for many years.
Here are some of my favorite quotes on failure (and click on any quote to tweet it):
I hope these tips and quotes were helpful. Maybe you’ve used some of these strategies before. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to hear about your experiences with failure.
Question: How do you make the most of failure? Post a comment below or hit me up on Twitter.