Learning From Failure

Industry Matters Newsletter

Many of us are raised to believe that if we fail, we have done something wrong. Failure, in a competitive society such as ours, is often viewed as a cardinal sin. There are differences in types of failures, though. The one thing all failures have in common is that they are opportunities to learn. Writer and speaker Todd Dewett explains more in “Learning from Failure.” 

The biggest challenge is how we think about failure. We think about it not as one event, but as a chronic state, which is untrue. Failure is just one part of a learning process that increases future success. Because of the way we think about failure, though, our fear of it is the primary reason we refuse to set personal goals and set weak professional goals.

Fear of failure only creates more failure, according to Dewett. He talks about the failure cycle, where we avoid failure, avoid dealing with it when it happens, and then our failures pile up until we become overwhelmed. To get out of the failure cycle, understand that we have to fail. We have to try, fail, and learn several times before we reach one success. This process makes us more resilient and more persistent, which increases our likelihood for future success.

Failure isn’t always a personal mistake. There are different types of failures – one is a personal error, where we are reckless and negligent. The other is an external factor –where things don’t go as planned. We can sometimes mitigate the failures that are due to external factors by developing plans and backup plans for important work, and continue learning to ensure best methodologies.

Learning from your mistakes and accepting your contribution to a negative outcome can be central to improving as a professional. After a failure, understand what happened, build on new skills and seek insights from others. Make intentions and plans on how to prevent the same type of failure next time, and follow through. This will make you learn more effectively and faster. It also shows others that you’ll take responsibility and have integrity, and you’ll be more relatable. Embracing your failure leads to compassion, humility, courage and perspective.   

A failure is just one event – one that you can prevent from happening again if you learn how you went wrong this time. The more you learn, the better you are and the more likely you are to succeed.