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Why Failure Isn’t Bad

We’re taught at an early age that failure is a bad thing. When we do poorly on tests, we receive a failing grade.

When a business goes bankrupt or dies, it is said to fail.

We are constantly reminded every day that failure is something negative. But what about the positives of failure? There are so many benefits to failing, I find it difficult to argue that failure is anything close to negative.

Failure is a Learning Experience

Above all else, failure is an opportunity to learn; and there is a lesson to be learned in every loss we encounter.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas A. Edison

This quote is great at stripping failure of its negative connotation. Failure is simply a way something “won’t work”. Instead of being a “lack of success”, it becomes part of the process of trial and error.

Thus, each idea we try that doesn’t work brings us that much closer to an idea that does. To that end, experiencing failure is a necessary step in arriving at success.

Keep in mind, it is very important you learn from every failure and that the same failure isn’t experienced twice. This could lead to unnecessary wastes of time and money and even possibly fatal mistakes.

Failure is Something You Have to Get Used To

Failure, like marketing or accounting is a normal business process. Because of this, failure is something you must get used to in order to survive.

Failure is such a common occurrence it should come to be expected. Thus, ensure you develop thicker skin if setbacks seem to bother you.

Get used to the fact that you will experience more failures than successes. This doesn’t make you a failure, but an even more savvy business owner.

Identifying opportunities and trying to capitalize on them are valuable skills that will inevitably cause failure. You aren’t a prophet, so it is impossible for you to know which ideas will be profitable. The only way to know for sure is to try.

Probably the most important thing to remember about failure is that it can’t be avoided. Trying to avoid failure will only prevent you from acting–and there is more danger in not acting than in failure itself.

Failure Shouldn’t be Taken Lightly

Failures must be taken seriously. Because mistakes are expensive, they should be studied to ensure a lesson is identified.

Even more important is to make sure you are able to identify a failure when it occurs. If you can’t spot a failure when it happens, mistakes will continue until you learn to fix them. This can be extremely costly and potentially fatal for your business.

Thus, you must handle failures with care by ensuring you can identify them when they occur. Then, be sure to pinpoint the lesson to be learned.

Are there any other reasons why failure isn’t bad? Does the downside of failure outweigh the benefits?

4 comments… add one
  • Tom Volkar / Delightful Work March 26, 2009, 9:53 am

    “Probably the most important thing to remember about failure is that it can’t be avoided. Trying to avoid failure will only prevent you from acting–and there is more danger in not acting than in failure itself.”

    This is so very true. I’m reminded of my years playing various sports. It seemed like those who tried to avoid action out of fear always ened up in action smack dab in the middle of what they feared. Avoidance is a focus too. Where we place our energy we expand.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Daily Decision Strategy

    • Matt Thomas March 26, 2009, 8:35 pm

      Well said, couldn’t say it better myself. We tend to grow where we direct our attention. All it takes is time, patience and persistence. NOT failure avoidance.

  • Ade Shokoya March 26, 2009, 4:43 pm

    I learnt something very interesting about failure yesterday.

    The lesson came courtesy of Keith Cunningham (Robert Kiyosaki’s mentor and inspiration behind Rich Dad, Poor Dad). He was speaking at one of the Mastermind Groups I belong to.

    Anyway, he said…

    “Failure is a verb, not a noun. It describes an event and not a human being!”

    Like ‘missing a bus’…’losing our keys’…’forgetting to call’, etc

    But the problem is…

    Many of us have been socialised into seeing failure — and success for that matter — as an attribute of the person the event is related to.

    Could that be part of the reason why so many struggling and non-entrepreneurs fear failure? Is it because they don’t won’t to be one?

    Ade Shokoya

    Author: Secrets of the Entrepreneur Mind: What Successful Entrepreneurs Know That Struggling Entrepreneurs Do Not!

    • Matt Thomas March 26, 2009, 8:37 pm

      Excellent point! People want to avoid negative labels, so they will try to avoid failure so they wont be labeled as a failure. What these people don’t realize is that this is only counter productive, and that failing and being a failure are two completely different things.

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