Thank You for Failing

There’s one F word that’s become the dirtiest word in the English language (and it’s not the one you’re thinking of).

For some reason, failure is something we’ve been taught to be afraid of. But failure can be an asset — as long as you fail well. (I speak from experience.)

Failing well can be one of life’s greatest blessings. Not only do you learn invaluable lessons and become a better person because of it, but others will want to learn from your failures, too. In fact, I once had a client hire me specifically for my failures. Instead of making and subsequently learning from the mistakes himself, he figured he could just pick my brain and learn from the mistakes I had already made.

And he was right.

Failures are an unavoidable part of business and of life (you can never win, if you don’t play). So whether it’s an entire idea that doesn’t pan out, or just a small piece of a much bigger (and more successful pie), we learn what works by failing. Over-boil an egg a few times, and you’ll soon figure out exactly how long it really needs. Turn a favourite white top red in the washing machine and you’ll never mix whites and brights again.

The key to success is not in the failure itself—it’s in the lesson learned. Acknowledging and growing from your mistakes is how you fail well.

The problem is that failure has become such a dirty word that most people are afraid to admit defeat. They make excuses and blame everyone around them when things go south (or even worse, they don’t ever try something new). The key is to own your failure. Own your mistakes. Own your role in all of it. Look at every piece of the puzzle and figure out what went wrong and why. Not only will you learn a lot about yourself, but you won’t make those same mistakes ever again.

As employers, we also need to support the learning process. Failure needs to become something that’s praised and encouraged. Make sure your employees know it’s OK to mess up every now and then. Reinforcing your support of failure will create an open environment where people are willing to take risks, bring forth new ideas, admit their mistakes, and invest time and resources into uncharted waters. And that’s where stars (and winning business ideas) are born.