You may fail many times before you succeed, and you will learn more from your failures than your successes. This wisdom is widely accepted in the tech industry. But we tend to only hear about successful businesses, which means we’re missing part of the story – and all of the learning.
It seems counterintuitive to consider the benefits of failure – failing is inherently bad, right? But there’s actually a lot to be gained when things go wrong.
Here are eight ways that failure is useful – and could actually bring you closer to success the next time around.
1. Failure makes you smarter
‘Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.’ – Morihei Ueshiba
Trial and error has a profound impact on the human brain. In one study, participants who had a go at solving a problem themselves first, rather than being taught by an instructor straight away, gained a ‘significantly greater conceptual understanding’ of the subject. They were also better at transferring what they’d learned to new problems.
Our brains are unique in their ability to learn and adapt through failure.
2. Failure helps you innovate
‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ – Thomas Edison
Innovation comes from failure – it’s true. Or rather, failure forces us to think creatively – to look at a failed project and try to turn it into something new, or go back to the original problem from a new angle. If you’re able to understand what went wrong and address the issues, failure becomes a useful exercise on the path to success.
If we see failure as part of ongoing research rather than a dead end, it becomes much less painful (and much easier to keep going).
3. Failure shows you your priorities
‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear.’ – Jack Canfield
Failure puts a halt on everything and makes you question your past decisions. In trying to save something, you’ll appreciate why it matters all the more. You’ll rediscover your motivations for trying in the first place. You’ll learn which aspects of your idea or business you want to save or reinvent for next time.
Failure is a chance to reconnect with your core ideas and beliefs – and come back stronger next time.
4. Failure reveals your weaknesses
‘It may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it’ – Maya Angelou
Many people take it to heart when they fail, but it’s important to remember that failure doesn’t define you – it just shows you the areas you need to work on. If you’re self-aware enough to assess your ‘weaknesses’ honestly, you can start fixing them straight away.
Reframing your shortcomings as areas for growth is a powerful strategy for moving past the guilt and self-criticism that can come with failure.
5. Failure teaches you who your friends are
‘A true friend is one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your success!’ – Doug Larson
When you’re on top, everyone wants to be close to you. When you’re down, those ‘friends’ may disappear. Failure acts as a filter to show you who your most loyal friends and business associates are. The people you are left with are the ones who rightly deserve to share in your success when it comes.
Having a strong, reliable support system in place will only increase your chances of future success.
6. Failure gives you perspective
‘Do not let success go to your head and failure to your heart’ – Roy T. Bennett
Failure makes us truly appreciate success – and understand how fleeting it can be. You realise that success isn’t an end goal but something that needs to be constantly upheld.
Once you’ve tasted failure you’ll likely consider your decisions much more carefully, and from different perspectives – making it far less likely that you’ll make the same mistakes again.
7. Failure can build resilience
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts’ – Winston Churchill
Failure can be frightening. Our instinct can be to shut ourselves away and protect our egos by minimising risk. But successful people force themselves to get up and try again, even after they’ve failed repeatedly.
It helps to see failure as a learning exercise, one that will develop your resilience and ability to rebound quickly from disappointment. Recover a little and have another go – you can’t succeed unless you try.
8. Failure is an opportunity
‘Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently to begin again’ – Henry Ford
Failure is a chance to correct mistakes, to apologise, to improve your product or your business model. You could start fresh with a whole new idea.
Rather than feeling trapped by failure, see it as something that could liberate you from baggage and get you on the path to success.
Lastly… failure is just the beginning
Hardly anyone makes it the first time they try. Take inspiration from the fact that some of the world’s most successful people have failed over and over.
They weren’t all gifted with an innate capacity for success – they worked at it. And most importantly, they faced their failure and cultivated an attitude that helped them recover and thrive.
Feeling inspired? Join us at Design/Build/Market: Successes and Failures for more insight into business success and failure.