There are two critical components to failing well. First, it can’t be fatal. Second, you must learn from it. If you follow these two guidelines, future failures will rock your world in positive ways.
There is only one type of failure that you should make every effort to avoid: fatal failure.
Of course, this literally includes life and death, but it also applies to anything that could kill your dream, your business, or tear apart relationships.
Instead of failing fatally, you want to fail forward. You want to make sure that your failure still moves you towards your destination in some way.
I like to think of it like driving down a road. Detours are fine as long as they still move you toward your destination. Slowing down to a crawl is OK too, as long as you keep moving in the right direction. Failure should be the same way.
So I encourage people, especially entrepreneurs, to take risks. But don’t take your last $100,000 and put it on one idea. Spend $40,000 or even $60,000 on that idea. If you succeed, the victory will still be sweet, but if you fail, you don’t have to explain to twenty people why they no longer have jobs or to your spouse why you have to move into a cardboard box.
Learning from Failure
There is always something to be learned from every failure (or success). A few years ago, I was sued…literally…by the FTC. Yes, they soon dropped their case against me, but the initial blow to my psyche was severe. But I did two important things right away:
One, I kept moving forward. I didn’t let it discourage me or get me off course.
Two, I digested the lessons from it. I wasn’t focused on FTC compliance before the suit. I learned the hard way how to be compliant. Now I am an expert on the subject. I am the one people look to with questions about FTC compliance. I took a difficult situation and over time used it to my advantage.
I took a weakness and made it a strength. All because I initially failed. That is the essence of failing forward. Strength from weakness. Knowledge from ignorance. Using it to your advantage.
You will look back on life one day and realize you are on a mountaintop. You will be standing on a mountain of failures that together led you to the peak. But only if they aren’t fatal and only if you learn from them.
How have you used failure to your advantage?