Embrace Your Failures!

It’s a shame to waste a good failure.

You can tell how great a company is by how many failures they experience. This is based on the idea that if you’re not failing, you’re not doing enough. In fact you’re probably standing still, you’re stagnating, which is the closest thing to death a company does short of dying.

If you do not grow, you will die. If you do not try different ideas and approaches you will not grow and you will die. That’s all there is to it.

Some famous failures:

Thomas Edison tried to find the right filament for his new invention the light bulb one thousand times before he did indeed find the right one. The first nine hundred and ninety-nine times were not failures to him, they were lessons in what would not work.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I have never scored on a shot I did not take.”

Michael Jordan himself said, “I’ve  missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.” And he is considered the greatest basketball player of all time!

Ted Williams, was the greatest hitter of all time, the last man to bat over four hundred in a season,  a record that they say will never be broken. But the fact remains that he failed to get a hit almost fifty nine percent of the time he went to bat.

I disagree with Apollo 13’s Gene Kranz who famously said, “Failure is not an option” (although in his case it was true) ,but actually failure is an option and a very important one at that.

And here is some wisdom from some other famous failures…

Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” —John Wooden


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” —Thomas Edison


“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” —Albert Einstein


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” —Winston Churchill


“A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.” —Alexandre Dumas


“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” —Napoleon Hill


“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on them. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” —Johnny Cash


“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” —Zig Ziglar


When we fail, we learn what not to do. We learn what does not work and that gets us closer to what will work.

As we have learned by now, often the road to success is filled with failure. Often by failing to achieve our goal we achieve another more important one. Post-It notes were invented by someone who failed at making a strong adhesive for 3M. One of his failures was a very weak adhesive that he ended up using to make these things called Post-It notes. The guy at Proctor and Gamble who screwed up the formula for soap bars invented Ivory the “the soap that floats” and then mistakenly sent out shipment after shipment but instead of getting complaints, the customers wrote in demanding more of that soap that floats.

By now I am sure you are getting the message. You have to embrace failure to get anywhere in business and in life as well.

Take a chance on that new technology or that new process. You will not get it right right away, but you will learn valuable lessons on the way to getting it right.

Try a new way of doing things. I guarantee that people will not like it. In my own industry a company years ago tried this new technique of putting more than one PCB part number on a panel and people – mostly their competitors – howled with laughter and came up with fifty reasons why it would not work. And even when the company did figure out how to make it work, and it eventually worked fabulously, their competitors still clung to their fifty reasons why they would not  try it themselves.

Remember how everyone laughed at Jeff Bezos’ new company called Amazon? And shook their heads in disbelief at how he did not make any money, heck he lost a fortune every year for five years before things turned around? Now that was a bucketful of failure there wasn’t it? But who’s laughing now?

If you want to succeed in anything, especially in anything important, anything earth shaking, you  are going to have to embrace some failure along the way with a full armed bear hug. That’s a proven fact.

It’s only common sense.