Failing Forward - Teaching Others that Failure is OK

October 12, 2022

Failing Forward - Teaching Others that Failure is OK

“Failing forward is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.” — John C. Maxwell

Mistakes are a part of our everyday lives, and there’s no denying that when we fail, it sucks. It makes us feel down. Sometimes, if it is a pretty big mistake like your business failing, the shock leads to denial, and we want to run away from it because we don’t want to become “failures.”

We need to break free of that mindset that our failures become us, and instead learn to fail forward.

There are a lot of stories about high achievers and successful people who failed a lot early on in their careers. What can we learn from people like Vincent van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Charles Bukowski, and Michael Jordan? Don’t get stuck with failure. Move forward by utilizing what you learned from it.

Recognizing and admitting your mistakes will be hard, but it is the most important step toward learning. We need to know where we messed up before we can fix it. We need to identify what is broken before we can improve things.

Sometimes it means taking a step back from the situation to get a more objective view of what happened. Other times, it is listening to your partners, your employees, and your friends.

We only get scared of failing because we have this irrational need to be “perfect” even when we all know perfection is impossible to achieve.

Failure comes with negative emotions, and it is okay to accept those. What’s not okay is to wallow in it, adopt a victim mindset, and try to project those feelings onto others. Do not deny the emotional consequences of your mistakes, but don’t get stuck in them either.

Instead, figure out why you failed. Analyze what went wrong and what you can do better in your next step. This is the most productive and fruitful part of failing—when you reflect on what went wrong and see in hindsight what you could have done differently.

“Without understanding why you failed, you can’t use that failure to inform future decisions.” — Simon Slade

Failure doesn’t just teach you new strategies; it also reveals more of your personality as a leader and an entrepreneur. This self-discovery can help you identify where you have room for growth and how you can work on it. Seeing yourself objectively helps you become a better leader.

To move forward, you have to look forward. Redefine your success based on what you learned. But stay vigilant—the negative experience of failing can give us bad habits of risk-aversion and low self-esteem. Fight these bad habits as they don’t help with your productivity and effectiveness.

Once you know how to fail forward, it is time to tell your people that it is okay to fail.

Giving your team permission to fail encourages freedom to act. It gives you the confidence to try something new, innovate and act. When people are too afraid to fail, they get scared to move.

Dare to fail, learn something new, and keep looking ahead. 

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.