3 Ways to Fail Better to Avoid Total Failure

One of my very favorite quotes about failure and how persevering and learning from it ultimately leads to success comes from comedienne Ellen DeGeneres:

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”

Another great one comes from coming-of-age story author Janet Fitch:

“The Phoenix must burn to emerge.”

Two simple quotes with powerful messages behind them.

Though it’s getting very cliche with all the personal development and strategy content that exists out there on the web; FAILURE is a necessary part of the equation. We all have to let go of the lottery mindset and buckle down for the inevitable to find success in any venture.

Here’s my 3 tips for the week on how to fail better instead of failing forever:

Failure to Fly

1. Be strategic about it…

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

Being mindful of the past missteps you have encountered will help you avoid repeating the same mistakes. Take a page out of adventure sports legend Travis Pastrana‘s book. He and many others like him in the action sports genre know better than anyone that you have to fail — and that you have to learn from those failures in order to — well — stay alive in their case! But also to learn how to do the amazing tricks they perform in shows like the Nitro Circus.

Nobody ever learned how to backflip a motorcycle at 30 ft in the air without falling flat on their head a few dozen times.

In business it’s no different. Whether you adopt a “Fail fast, fail often” approach, or prefer to “Fail smarter” or “Fail forward”. Whatever approach you take you have to repeatedly fail and then have a strategic approach to analyzing whatever data you can glean in order to do better in the next run — or to simply move on if something isn’t working.

2. Sometimes failure is actually telling you to move on…

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

Edison said it best, but sometimes whatever you’re trying to achieve isn’t possible — or isn’t possible right now.

Take a look at NASA’s Interstellar Project that’s currently considered dead in the water — for now. After a number of failures, scientists have simply realized that the technology and financial resources simply do not exist to make this tech a reality at this time. So they’ve curbed the project and will revisit it when the timing’s right.

Business is no different. Sometimes putting your head down and grinding it out is just plain foolish. Whether you’re trying to build a Facebook competitor when you have no money and no coding skills, or your great idea requires selling ice to Eskimos.

Edison just knew that a lighted bulb was possible and he was right. Hopefully you’ll really know when you have something or not. Just remember there are like a zillion great ideas in the business boneyard that the founder was just so sure of, when in actuality they were destined to fail no matter what.

Move on, but don’t give up. Just don’t waste valuable years of your life on something that isn’t going to pan out. Keep pushing out ideas until a winner emerges — then you can go back to the stuff that wasn’t working and make a passion project out of it someday when you’ve achieved success and financial comfort.

3. Don’t fail all on your lonesome…

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis

There are countless stories of people who achieved success despite the naysayers. Perhaps the biggest success story I can think of is a young Austrian boy who would grow up to transcend boundaries beyond anything most of us can dream — ie., Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Rule #4 in his famous “Rules for Success” speech is in fact “Ignore the naysayers.”

That’s good advice, but we do need people in our lives to point out the potential negatives. To help us see the light when we’re down and out and emotion is clouding our judgement. It’s so hard to become so emotionally vested in something we really want badly and yet still be able to take a step back.

When things aren’t going right have a mentor, trusted friend, family member, or a team of employees you can turn to. Ask for opinions and analyze them carefully. In the end, the decision on how to proceed now and in the future will still be yours, but at least you won’t be alone when things don’t work out.

And hey, if you do ignore good advice and end up failing: “I told you so” is a great motivator to NEVER fail that same way ever again!


Main Image Credit: felixtsao/Flickr