Two Kinds of Failure

Harnessing The Full Power of Your Mistakes

When I started in marketing, I viewed failure in black-and-white terms. Either you succeeded or you failed. I didn’t see the shades of gray, the way that failure leads to crucial progress.

Now, a little further down the road, I see that there are really two kinds of failure. Your business can’t live with one, and can’t live without the other.

First, there’s failure originating from sheer laziness. I call this avoidable failure. Most of the time, I committed avoidable mistakes and paid the price. I hit the snooze button one too many times, clocked off a little earlier than I should have, didn’t bother researching how to do something… 

The results always equaled the input. Garbage in, garbage out. 

When I got fired from my restaurant job in 2010, I could chalk it up to poor habits, procrastination, and doing the bare minimum. I neglected the obvious things I needed to do in order to thrive, or even survive. Getting fired provided the wake-up call I needed. Some failures can be easily avoided.

Then there are true failures. Here, the output does not equal the input. You really do your best. You punch the clock early and stay on the job all day. You do everything right… 

… and it still doesn’t go your way. Instead of failure due to laziness, this is failure due to real life. There may be something you can do differently, but you simply didn’t know or understand it at the time.

For more ideas on what you can do differently next time, check out my free resource, the M.I.L.K It Method.

Why You Need To Scrutinize Your Failures

From the very beginning of your business, place every failure under the microscope and examine them thoroughly. Contrary to popular belief, you need to let failure go to your head.

Think of it as a professional athlete reviewing game film. A good quarterback looks at the plays that went well, attempting to emulate previous success. A great quarterback looks at the plays that went terribly, determined to get a different result next time.

You don’t want to repeat mistakes endlessly. If the failure came because of a knowledge gap, a time issue, or a lack of delegation, you need to know. If the failure came due to a laziness issue, then you really need to know.

At first, you’ll feel uncomfortable studying failures. Nobody wants their bad days held up under the light. You’d probably prefer to shove them deep in your closet, with the other skeletons. But in this case, you go forward by looking back.

How To Fail Forward

Push through discomfort, roll back the tape, and gain precious wisdom. Going back to football, the running back who falls forward gains a couple of extra yards. Follow this checklist to get back on your feet, a little banged up, and a little bit smarter.

  1. Identify whether this is an avoidable failure.

The best way to determine what kind of failure you experienced is to pretend you’re an outside consultant, looking in. You’re hired to determine why failure occurred, without vested interest. Maybe you’ll discover it was a valiant effort that didn’t quite work out. You would then  recommend the firm invest more in education, or reorganize.

However, maybe you discover that laziness and inefficiency are at the heart of the issue. In this case, you recommend improving focus and discipline for the parties involved.

You will be tempted to find an external cause to blame, rather than admit a flaw in yourself. But building an amazing business starts with becoming an amazing business leader. If you are not ruthlessly honest with yourself, you’ll continue to make avoidable mistakes.

  1. Phone a friend.

Letting someone you trust examine your failure with you may feel uncomfortable, but the value far outweighs the embarrassment.

For one, they’re going to help you process emotionally. When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to go into freefall. You fail to close with a prospect, and suddenly you feel like you’ll never close again. A client drops your services, and you expect the phone to ring with the rest of your clients dropping you.

However, when you talk honestly with a friend, it’s going to take the sting away. They’ll remind you that you’re not a failure, and mistakes don’t define you. Also, they see things you can’t. They can identify what went wrong and how to avoid it next time. Getting their two cents today will save you thousands of dollars tomorrow.

Coverage from others’ strengths is part of succeeding in business. I’m so convinced of this I wrote on it elsewhere – check out my blog on forming effective partnerships.

  1. Make a plan and execute it.

For both avoidable and unavoidable mistakes, you want to identify an action item or two and then commit to changing your approach.

If failures come from laziness, it’s time to take a closer look at your habits and discipline. Learn how to take responsibility for yourself and actions. Study how to protect your time, energy, and willpower. Commit to making better goals and plans of action. 

In other words, become the leader who doesn’t make that mistake anymore.

If the failure was unavoidable, then it’s time to commit to learning. Many businesses and products fail not because they lack skills or ideas, but they lack the right method. 

I’ve prepared a free resource that can give you a proven action plan to turn your skills and ideas into a major cash cow, called The M.I.L.K. It Method. It’s worth reading to see if there’s anything you can apply.

You can also supplement your knowledge with a knowledge transfer from the “What’s The Secret?” Podcast. Right now I’m gathering valuable insights from leaders in the world of online business, all of whom have learned a thing or two from their own failures.

Remember, you can use every single failure to propel you and your enterprise forward. The only failure you can’t overcome is if you avoid learning from the lessons they teach you.

About the Author
Tom is the host of What's the Secret podcast and co-founder of Offlinesharks.com

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