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The best way to succeed is to fail

By Tim Fuell - January 27, 2014

Even though failure can be dis-heartening, a set-back and downright uncomfortable, it rarely is the end of the world. It may look like it at the time and certainly feel like it, but just as a young child who trips in the playground is told “pick yourself up, brush yourself down and get on with it”. 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
Thomas A. Edison

Have you ever watched an army of ants moving across the floor in a line? It can be mesmerising. Ever seen what they do if they come across a barrier suddenly in their way? They search and search for a new way out. It’s like watching somebody from above in a stately home maze. Trial and error means they will eventually find the solution and sometimes, even in business that is the best way to reflect on failure. Not every decision you make will be right. If you were you’d be superhuman and running a business would probably be a waste of those powers anyway. The art of success is making more good decisions than bad, getting up one more time than you fall. So how is the best way to achieve that? Well here’s a few pointers for starters:

Get over yourself

You may be good, but are you really the greatest? It’s unlikely, so lose the ego and gain some humility. Knowing when you are wrong is the fastest way to success. Flogging a dead horse will only serve to frustrate you more and waste time and money, so if you made a bad choice put your hands up and move on. That also means taking off those rose-tinted spectacles. Sometimes – especially in business it is easy to deny all is wrong and go chasing what will only ever be losses. Take a step back. Listen to some advice and assess with a clear head what it is you are trying to achieve and what issues you have.

Be alert and reactive

When you take your eye off the ball things can easily go awry. So every day you need to be on top of your business, aware of your surroundings and ready to make a change if needed. A change in legislation or even just public attitudes could have a big impact on your sales. Twitter has become successful for business because of the ability to follow trends and that’s a free tool anybody can access, so be aware of analytics and how you can stay abreast of what is going on in your marketplace.

Try to manage some “safe” failures

If success if simply about one more success than the number of failures then it goes that if you keep those failures small and managed, the success will be easier to achieve. Don’t be afraid to try new things out. Innovation is another quick route to success, but that needn’t mean full blown, headlong commitment into something new. Test it. Do it small-scale. That way you can manage things better and manage the failure if it doesn’t work, without threatening your livelihood and your sanity.

Succeed in areas you are strong

It may sound obvious, but  you will find greater strength and likely success in topics and subjects you know inside-out and are more comfortable in. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch your comfort zone, but make sure you manage that as a potential ‘safe failure’ if that doesn’t work out. You can build on your comfort zone, but knowing what may have worked and what may have failed before. Make adjustments and failure could soon be converted into success.

Bouncing back from failure is not rocket science, but it is a science of the mind. You need to overcome negative thoughts and turn them to a positive outcome. You can’t forget failure or ignore it, in fact embrace it and you may just learn a little something extra too.

What are your tips for surviving failure?