Failing successfully!

Failure and Success

Failing Successfully!
Photo: Andy Dean Photography/ Resource:

Winston Churchill once said:

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Well spoken – but hard to do.

Defeat generally is a huge blow to one’s sense of worth. After a defeat, most of us will have trouble to keep going with enthusiasm and energy.

Failure is a question of interpretation

If you set objectives you must accept the risk that you may fail to attain the desired outcome. When this happens, one will call this a failure, the other simply says to themselves:

Light Bulb of Alva Edison

Light Bulb of inventor Alva Edison
Photo: artjazz/ resource:

“My hopes and aspirations did not develop according to my expectations.”

Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, was in the latter category. It took him nearly 2,000 attempts before he was able to get the first carbon filament to glow in a bulb. He is said to have described his failed attempts as follows:

“These were not failures. At least I now know 2,000 ways how not to get a carbon filament to glow.”

Failure is frequently only a matter of interpretation. Situations that are initially perceived as a failure can prove to be a success in the end.

The development of super glue

In 1968, Spencer Silver was involved with the development of a super glue that was expected to be stronger than all known glues. But after an extended development period, the results were rather sobering. The adhesive was easily applied to any surface, but was just as easily removed. Super glue – not! A clear-cut failure at first glance.

Development of Post Its

Post-Its from 3M
Photo: iko/ Resource:

Years later, Arthur Frey, a colleague of Spencer Silver, was irritated by bookmarks that kept falling out of his music book. He remembered Spencer’s adhesive and tried it on his music book – and it worked.

He was able to attach the bookmarks and remove them later without any residue, and could then reattach them. The Post-Its from 3M had been invented.

“The road to success is rarely linear!”

I have failed!

The moment of failure is frequently painful. I normally perceive failure as a moment of great powerlessness. Telling myself in that moment:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Every failure has an upside!”

does not really help.

How to fail successfully!

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest post on Expert Enough about my 10 most important tips how to fail successfully. Here are the headlines:

  1. Make room for feelings!
  2. Focus on the failure, not on the person!
  3. Identify the worst possible outcome!
  4. Allow yourself to fail!
  5. Do not fret over your failure!
  6. Anything meaningful carries risk!
  7. Avoid excuses and assigning blame!
  8. What can I learn from this?
  9. Create some leeway for action!
  10. What positive can come of this?

You may read the tips in detail on Expert Enough.

What are your tips?

  • Hi Bernd! The ability to deal with failure and keep moving despite set-backs is what separates successful business owners from less successful ones…because all successful business owners have experienced their share of failure.  

    •  Hi Heather! Thanks for your comment. That is very true. Unfortunately I see a lot of business owners who do not try even small new things just because they are afraid of failure.

  • I am “falling forward” all the time! 😉 I wrote a post on this topic in 2009 on Open Forum: Five Lessons Learned from my Start-up — And why I’d Do it Again.