How To Fail Forward

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All of us fail.

In a difficult season several years ago, I learned that failure doesn’t have to be permanent.  We can learn to fail forward.

Here’s the difference between permanent failure and temporary failure:  Successful people fail often and learn more from that failure.

However, these two habits keep us in a never-ending failure cycle:

  • Getting good at avoiding responsibility (and therefore blaming others).
  • Acting on the urgent things in life at the expense of the important.

While it may seem like these two choices increase your chances for survival, in fact they merely insulate you from worthwhile failures.

Here are six random ideas that will help you FAIL Better, more often and with an inevitably positive upside:

  1. Grow yourself by doing hard things.  The results?  You grow both your competence and your character. You become a master at your craft.
  2. Find your “Why”. Most people get so focused on “what” they’re doing in life, they rarely focus on “why” (which is walking in purpose).  You’ll eventually become excellent at your “what” because it’s empowered and inspired by your “why”.
  3. Engage with others. Bring people along with you. If you fail, they provide support and direction when you need them most.
  4. Be really clear about what the true risks are. Ignore the non-fatal risks that take so much of our focus away.
  5. Concentrate your energy on initiatives that you can influence, but prepare for external circumstances that could derail your plans.
  6. When you fail (and you will) be clear about it.  Call it by name and outline specifically what you learned so you won’t make the same mistake twice. People who blame others for failure will never be good at failing, because they’ve never done it.

If that list frightened you, you might be getting to the heart of the matter.

If that list feels like the sort of thing you, your team, and colleagues could adopt as part of your culture, then perhaps you’re onto something……

failure-is-not-the-end-of-your-world-its-the-start-1433789114-7424

2 thoughts on “How To Fail Forward

    Harris, Carroll N - Dulles, VA said:
    September 19, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Great insights Chad. I really appreciate receiving your thoughts!

    Carroll Harris III
    Assistant Inspector in Charge
    Management Analysis and Planning Group
    O (202) 268-2880

      Chad Pfeifer responded:
      September 23, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Thank you Carroll! I think we all have our share of “learning moments” in life that can help us if we let them.

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