How To Fail
How to Fail
There can be no progress without failure. If this is true, then why do so many of us avoid failure at all cost? Since launching my practice four years ago, I have learned how to fail forward and want to share a few insights to get you to test your ideas, take risks, and, yes, to learn how to fail. What I call “smart failure” is vital to the successful experience of starting a business, launching a new venture, or even stepping out of your comfort zone on a new project.
When disappointment from our mistakes knocks us down and keeps us down, we miss out on the huge opportunity to get up, revise the approach, and make it better. How can something be improved upon without recognizing and learning from the mistakes? Here are some of the best ways I know to learn how to put failure to work for you:
Put your ego in its place. The greatest barrier to taking risks and diving into new areas of work or exploration is the ego. The ego doesn’t want to look bad. The ego doesn’t want to be embarrassed and the ego falsely believes it can create genius without failure. Put your ego in the passenger seat, never in the driver’s seat. You must be humble enough to make mistakes—and smart enough to do something with what you’ve learned.
Test out your ideas. The only way to know whether an idea is a good one is to test it. Many of us are overflowing with big, exciting ideas and sometimes we’re so pumped up by our ideas that we dive into them without testing their potential and practicality first. Put down the triple latte, slow down, and test out your ideas in small ways. Some will fail and fall to the wayside, making room for those in which it’s worth investing yourself. Small, instructive failures build your knowledge and confidence, while big failures can knock you on your heels. When you learn to fail small, you’re better able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse when you fail big.
Be brave. Courage—inspirational, game-changing, needle-moving courage—can be expressed in the smallest, most subtle but deeply impactful ways. Practice being courageous every day, not the jumping-out-of-a-plane kind of courage but the courage it takes to try again. Having the guts to try again—and again and again, if necessary—is the secret weapon successful people have in common.
Remember what Woody Allen once said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”