Failure is the most important key to success.
I know that may seem a bit counter-intuitive, so let me explain:
I have had the honor of interacting with thousands of people over the years in many capacities — as a speaker, as a coach, as consultant and sometimes
just as an observer. It’s not unusual for me to pull out my journal and write down observations and insights that I notice.
I was recently looking back over some of my notes and I was reminded that, for a great many people their fear of failure is literally the only thing that
is stopping them from success. Said another way, their fear of ‘criticism’ from failing is their biggest road block.
I saw it in my speaking coach role… clients are afraid of speaking because they don’t want to look bad in front of a group of people. I saw it in my business
coaching role… clients are afraid of trying a new marketing campaign because their was no assurance that it would work. I saw it in the my personal
coaching role… clients were afraid to give 100% because if they did and they failed, they would feel inadequate.
This is simply a lie.
You must change how you look at failure and begin to embrace it.
The best salesman I have ever met is a friend of mine that sells wholesale meat door-to-door. Yep, he literally cold calls on
strangers and tries to sell them meat from the back of of his truck. One day I asked him if I could ride with him and observe how he did it.
I noticed that he seemed to almost speed walk from one house to the next, never breaking a sweat when someone would literally scream at him and slam the door in his face. I asked him how he was able to do that? He simply said, “I know from experience
that 1 out 15 people I speak to will buy from me. So I just try to talk to 15 people as fast as I can. It doesn’t matter to me if the first 14 say no (or
how they say it), because I know that yes is just around the corner — it’s only a matter of time.”
I’m not saying that you should set out to fail… no, I’m not saying that at all. But embracing failure as part of the process to success will serve you
far better than being so against failing that you simply don’t try. And if you are a diligent, hard working soul, it is impossible for you to fail forever
— “that yes is just around the corner” for you as well.
At Influenceology, Roberto and I have had some of our biggest laughs from our biggest failures. Perhaps you have heard the story about Roberto accepting to give
it talk in Spanish in Mexico City and he was pulled from the stage because nobody could understand his spanish. The next day he gave a talk in english and
received a standing ovation.
One time, I spent 7 days writing and producing an idea we had for a new product and NOT ONE person bought it — it was a total
flop. Did we give up? Nope, we laughed about how bad that sucked and we moved forward and a new approach and that is what is today, “The Influencer’s playbook”.
The distinction is to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Every time you have a set back, it allows you to have a comeback.
In his book “Failing Forward,” John C. Maxwell shares 5 keys to failing forward.
1. Recognize that a willingness to fail is the chief difference between successful people and average people.
In Maxwell’s opinion, success has little to do with wealth, family, background, morals, or opportunity. “When it comes right down to it,” he says, “I know
of only one factor that separates those who consistently shine from those who don’t: their perception of and response to failure.”
2. Redefine failure.
Maxwell says that people are too quick to judge isolated situations and label them as failures. A successful person sees a setback as temporary and
beneficial – something to learn from. As basketball coach Rick Pitino once said, “Failure is good. It’s fertilizer. Everything I’ve learned about coaching
I’ve learned from making mistakes.”
3. Disconnect yourself from your mistakes.
The trick to overcoming the fear of failure is to disassociate yourself from it. To understand that, as Maxwell says, “your failure does not make you a
failure.” Instead of beating yourself when you make a mistake, tell yourself, “I am not a failure. I failed at doing this.”
Keep in mind that every successful person has experienced failure. Mozart, a musical genius, was told by Emperor Ferdinand that The Marriage of Figaro was “far too noisy” and contained “far too many notes.” Thomas Edison, the most prolific inventor in history, was
considered unteachable as a youngster. And Albert Einstein, the greatest thinker of modern times, was told by a Munich schoolmaster that he would never
amount to much.
4. Take action to remove fear.
Recognize that your fear of failure is based not on logic but on experience. To get rid of that paralyzing fear, you must take action. “If you can take
action and keep making mistakes,” says Maxwell, “you gain experience. That experience eventually brings competence, and you make fewer mistakes. As a
result of making fewer mistakes, your fear becomes less paralyzing. But the whole cycle-breaking process starts with action. You must act your way into
feeling, not wait for positive emotions to carry you forward.”
5. Change the way you respond to failure.
Some people get angry when they fail. Others, unwilling to accept responsibility, look for scapegoats. Some people, stubborn people, ignore their negative
results and continue to repeat their unsuccessful actions. Still others simply give up. “There’s really only one solution to the gridlock on the failure
freeway,” Maxwell says, “and that’s to wake up and find the exit.” In other words, to accept responsibility for the actions that contributed to your
failure. And to change your behavior accordingly.
The title that Maxwell chose for his book – “Failing Forward” – sums up this philosophy nicely: If you march long enough, you will stumble. Whether you
stumble forward or stumble backward or stop marching completely is entirely up to you.
[Ed. Note: Jeff Paro is the editor of the "The Influenceologist" and the co-creator of "Video Marketing Content" and "The Influencer’s Playbook".]