Entrepreneurship Personal Growth

Failures and success

September 2, 2013

I’ve long heard the concept of “fail early, fail often.” And, while I understood it in theory, I struggled to see its real, practical benefit. This all changed when I realized that failure gives us knowledge and skills which cannot be gained any other way.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor tells of a study where 90 people went through a software training program. Of the 90 people, half of them were given instructions on how to avoid all errors, while the other half was intentionally guided into errors and needed to figure out solutions on their own.

Here’s what they found: Because the the latter group had learned how to work through errors on their own, their self confidence was higher, their knowledge of the software better, and they were far faster and more accurate in using the program than the group who had avoided all errors.

Gaining unique knowledge

Professor and psychologist Tal Ben-Sharar said, “We can only learn to deal with failure by actually experiencing failure, living through it. The earlier we face difficulties and drawbacks, the better prepared we are to face the inevitable obstacles along our path.” /Tweet this/

Everyone has obstacles. The key thing we need to realize is failure gives us unique knowledge and skills which cannot be gained any other way. Failure actually enables people go on to significant success.

There are plenty of examples of this in business. Post-it notes were the result of glue not setting right. Henry Ford failed with two automotive companies before he succeeded. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. And Colonel Sanders only created his wildly successful KFC franchise after his Sanders restaurant failed due to a new interstate which rerouted all of his customer traffic.

Chris Brogan says, “The key part of failure is learning and adapting and moving on.” If we just fail and don’t learn anything from it, that’s not beneficial.

Taking risks and trying new things

The question then arises, should we then try to fail?

My advice is, rather than deliberately failing, learn to take risks and try enough new things that failure will naturally happen.

A while back, here on the blog, Claudia and I tried a Date Night Contest. We were thinking we would get lots and lots of entries and everyone would be raving about it. While we did get some response, it wasn’t nearly the slamming success we were expecting.

Rather than stopping there and never trying another group project, we decided to learn from the experience and try again. We later ran a Focus Challenge and a Productivity Experiment which were very successful with nearly 100 participants and 2000 comments between the two.

This past spring I also tried opening a new class for our music school. I had high hopes of a great turnout and an influx of new students. What happened? Not even one person showed up to the class! After I got over my disappointment (read more on this failure here), I made a few adjustments and tried again, and again. With each new class I saw better results. These classes have turned out to be the best way for us to get new students.

So, I have seen first hand that failing does have practical (and amazing) benefits, if we learn from our experiences. Therefore I encourage you, fail early and fail often. You’ll gain precious knowledge and skills which will help propel you on to great success!

Photo Credit: amboo who? via Compfight cc

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10 Comments

  • Reply Michael Wright September 2, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Very good post! Analysis Paralysis won’t get you anywhere…..

    • Reply Michael Good September 2, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Hey, Michael! Absolutely not. Thanks for reading.

  • Reply jodyberkey September 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

    First of all, I love your easy tweet opportunity mid-article. So smart. We’re definitely going to steal that idea!

    Secondly, this entire article is amazing. It’s probably amazing in its own right, but it’s amazing because it speak to our struggles and successes in 90 Revolutions. We’ve, by far, grown and learned when we took chances. Sometimes we’d win. Sometimes we’d lose. I’d wager to say we grew more through failing.

    In terms of our current, almost finished, 13-in-13 half marathon challenge, the group is getting into much higher weekly mileage. Some have begun to experience hard runs where they’ve hit a wall and haven’t been able to meet their desired mileage for that day. It’s been tough, and they’ve come to the group to share their stories and get support. For some, their confidence has been rocked just a week or two before race day. This will be a great post to share with them.

    You guys write such great insightful content that is very appropriate to share with our audience. People are going to think you guys are staff writers for 90 Rev. soon. 🙂

    • Reply Michael Good September 2, 2013 at 8:23 am

      I’m smiling and laughing over here! 🙂 Thanks for your kind comment.

      The thing that made this concept “click” for me was understanding that the only way to learn some of the necessary skills for success is through failure. I think it was helpful to hear Shawn Achor talk about that experiment in particular for me. I know you enjoyed his Ted talk, I’d highly recommend “The Happiness Advantage!”

      The easy tweet link is very sweet! I’ve seen it around and have used it from time to time. It’s worked really well with the group projects like the Productivity Experiment that I mention in the post. I asked people to share the project and then made it really easy for them to share – just with one click. Here’s the link for it: http://clicktotweet.com/

      • Reply jodyberkey September 2, 2013 at 9:19 am

        I feel honored to have helped you start your day off with a smile and a laugh. However, knowing you, I’m sure you were already smiling and laughing and probably dancing around the kitchen just enjoying the blessing of another day even if you face trials and uncertainty.

        That’s continues to be my favorite TED Talk of all time. Nothing has dethroned it yet….and I’m still battling my TED Talk addiction. Thanks for always sharing such great stuff. You and Claudia are my regular dose of inspiration. You’re much cheaper than going to therapy. 🙂

        Thanks for the link to Click to Tweet. We’ll definitely implement that as we get consistent with blogging. Our running school curriculum and launching a podcast series are the next items on our to-do list. Consistent blogging is just a bit further down on the list.

        I hope you guys are doing well and the house sale/moving is making progress. Keep being awesome!

        • Reply Michael Good September 2, 2013 at 9:19 pm

          Haha, dancing around the kitchen? Well, that might be a stretch on some days. 🙂 I’m definitely not perfect, but I do try to start my days off grateful and on the right foot.

          You have to check out Achor’s book then. I got it from our library on audio and it’s been a great listen!

          As always, thanks for your’s and Steve’s friendship.

          • jodyberkey September 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

            I actually checked our local library this morning to see if they had his book. I put a hold on the audio and need to go pick it up tomorrow. Perhaps I should listen to it during the race on Saturday. He can keep me company for 13 miles.

          • Michael Good September 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

            Wow, on Saturday already. Have a great race!

  • Reply Ann Musico September 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

    ABSOLUTELY!! That’s why in raising children you don’t save them from every bad decision – having to navigate it, is the best way to learn. Thanks for a great post and being so transparent as always.

    • Reply Michael Good September 2, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Ann, I’m sure that’s something I’ll have to be more and more aware of as my son gets older. Your children are blessed to have you as their mother. 🙂
      Thanks for reading and for your input.

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