Making A Success Of Failure

I want us to start to embrace the success of failure. Now that might sound like an oxymoron, but I really do want us to celebrate our failures for a number of reasons.

We live in a culture that has forgotten how to reward failure. We are all about the new, the bigger and better. Rather than looking at what failed, and improving on it, we tend to resign it to the rubbish bin and start again.

I blame the cult of celebrity for this desire to have everything new and perfect. Every photo on social media, every piece of art or presentation has to be immaculate. They hide the failures that went before, because who ever gave failure good press?

When I work with University students I am constantly surprised how often they believe that they should be able to do something after the first try. Otherwise they label themselves no good at it. They have declared something impossible without giving it a real try.

Successful failing

As babies we didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to run across the room. We spent days and weeks, falling over, face planting or landing on our knees, then over time we grabbed onto the corner of a chair, or reached up for a parental hand or toy with wheels that helped our progress. We failed. Not once, not twice, but many times. We got up, we tried new ways and eventually we ran.

The next generation have been told that success is possible but without knowing how hard it is to achieve it, or how much mess, tears and failure has to happen first to make that possible.

In this podcast I talk about how we can make failure work for us, how we need to encourage the next generation to fail more often, and how Silicon Valley is actually celebrating failed projects.


There are things that you can do to make a failure a success, which I have listed below. Add to this list yourself and share it with others so that they have a chance to try and try again.

How to make failure a success

• Examine what went wrong.

• What can you learn from it?

• What caused it to be a failure? Environment, time, materials, lack of skills or knowledge?

• How can you improve on it?

• What changes could you make right now to move the project forward? More help, a new skill or better materials?

• Could you approach the project or task from another angle?

• Who could give you valuable feedback about what you have already created?

• What time frame can you put on this project to try to make it a success?

• When can you declare it a complete failure and move on?

I have a challenge for you. I want you to embrace the failures that you have made and celebrate them. More importantly, I want you to share one of them with someone from the next generation.

It is only by sharing the true path that we have been on, that someone can follow in our footsteps.

Let me know in the comments below what your greatest failure has been. What did you learn from it?

It’s only by making mistakes that we make anything at all.