How Failure Leads To Our Greatest Successes

Co-written with Samantha Skelly.

Let’s get something straight right away. No, we aren’t Oprah and Bill Gates. Neither of us can count to the number that Warren Buffet has in his bank account, and we haven’t climbed Everest or seen all of the Wonders of the World. Like you though, we have had our successes, and regardless of what they are, we are proud of them.

After a long conversation last week, we discovered that our greatest successes didn’t come because we knew exactly what we were doing, but because life corrected us along the way. We learned (and continue to learn) the hard way about hiring people, about telling our story, about providing value, and learning about who we are. What we learned throughout the conversation though, is that our successes came from our failures.

They have to, right?

Think of this. If we are to try something, fail, and keep moving forward, instead of calling it failing, we should be calling it what it is: learning.

Because the truth is, the only time we fail permanently is when we we fail to keep failing.

Let me try that again. The only time we fail permanently is the time we accept failure and stop there. If we learn from our failure and keep moving forward, we will eventually succeed.

We have to.

And so as we carried on with our conversation, we made a game out of our failures. Our goal was to see how we out-failed each other, understand what it was that we learned from it, and share with the other person what the next steps we took were.

What we found is that we are where we are because of the mistakes we made before the success we have.

For us, this was profound. This sparked a whole new energy.

The next question we asked was whether this was reality for all people, or if we just had this in common. Thinking hard about the world we live and grew up in, it was our elementary school spelling tests that provided the perfect example.

Consider this: If that spelling test you took waaaaay back in grade 1 was out of 20 and you got 17, technically you failed on three of the questions and succeeded on the others. If the corrections you made after learning from those mistakes allowed you to do better next time, well, we call that learning. Nothing new here.

Think too, of the greatest entrepreneur you know. How many prototypes did it take to get them where they are today? How many iterations of the same product were required to get it to where it is today? How many nights in their (insert family or friend here)’s basement did it take before they finally ‘made it’.

In every case, the answer is a lot. It has to be. We’re learning and doing the things we do for the first time. We can’t expect perfection.

And so, as we venture through life turning over every stone we can along the way for the very first time, consider the mistakes we make to be lessons, and not failures. Because those who fail to take the test and learn from the mistakes don’t graduate with top marks.

Chase failure knowing that it’s going to lead to your greatest success yet.

It has to.

You’ll be learning too much for it not to.

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