Practice and The Need to Fail

Getting results in business not only involves failure – it demands it.


The Only True Failure is Inaction

If you are going to succeed at anything you have to take action. The only true failure is the failure to act – one that is often the result of fear.

If you take action and fail, you produce a result that may be painful, but is nevertheless something that you can then build on.  

Failure is something we can even laugh about after it happens, because it’s out in the open for all to see. After all, do you really have a choice?

Indeed, you can even be proud of your failures. Why? Because you made the effort to take action – and that is always admirable.

The worst failure is quitting – ceasing to take action. Quitting is especially demoralizing because it is a personal choice – one that is usually not subject to circumstances beyond your control. 

Anyone who has ever quit knows that it gets easier to do it again the next time. If you quit before you get to the finish line, the next time around you may quit before the race even gets started.

Responding to Failure Begins a New Cycle

Failure begins a new cycle of practice – provided you respond to your new conditions.

When you create a result that falls short of your expectations, you can easily transform it with a short debriefing exercise.

#1 – Describe the experience you would like to improve – in writing.

#2 – List what worked well this time.

#3 – List the things that didn’t work.

#4 – Knowing what you do now, what would you do differently in the future?

#5 – Now create a step-by-step process to produce your desired result the next time.

The reason so few people achieve greatness is that they are too busy “winning.”

True – they have rationalized their limited capabilities – effectively accepting the status quo.

Yet, we are living in a world where amazing things are possible. Nobody could have ever imagined the success of the college project that has become Facebook. And we all know there have been plenty of failures associated with it.

We are all going to fail at something, so why wait?

The sooner you fail, the more quickly you can get on with building a better process for achieving your goals.

Then set higher goals, and fail away until you achieve them – and more.

Failing right is a process – one that is necessary for achieving what you know is possible.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Photo Credit: jscreationz
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  1. Good stuff, Jeff! If someone never fails, they are either winging it or not setting lofty enough goals. “Failure” is in the eye of the beholder. If your goal is to increase your revenue by 200% from year over year and only increase it 125%, is that failure?

    When you set goals, you are always pushing to something. As a result, you never really fail since the results are still often better than if you hadn’t set a goal at all. And at the very least, you learned something.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Jeff Korhan says:

      Thanks again Jon. It was good ‘ol experience that taught me some of these lessons!

      Especially now, lots of businesses are playing it safe. Whereas, I believe more than ever we need to be doing exactly the opposite.

      We’re barely into the new year and I’ve already had plenty of failures, but as you note, that’s where the learning comes from.

  2. WONDERFUL post, and great motivational reading to start my day. Thanks for posting this, Jeff!

  3. Thanks for an excellent post, Jeff. I especially liked your 5-step debriefing exercise – a great way to not be immobilized by failure. As Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

    • Jeff Korhan says:

      Valerie – … without loss of enthusiasm. That’s the attitude that makes failure transitional – as opposed to immobilizing. Thanks for sharing that!


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