How to Learn from Failure in Business (and to Try Again)

Failure can help you succeed, assuming you learn something from it.  Although failure always stings, the only tragedy is in not learning whatever lesson your failure can teach you.  So, whatever endeavor did not work, learn why it did not work.  Put serious thought into what went wrong, any mistakes you made, and then work on a plan to keep those same mistakes from happening again.  If your business has not experienced some form of failure then chances are good it is also not going to be a great success.  Failure exposes weaknesses in business and drives innovation and new ways of doing things.  How are you going to use whatever business failure you have had to strengthen your business?  How you answer that question will have a significant impact on the odds of surviving the failure and becoming even more successful than you had dared to hope for?

Take a hard look at your failed endeavor and see if it can be re-purposed into something successful.  Perfect examples are the iconic silly putty and the slinky.  Both were failed attempts to fill a military application, but when re-purposed as toys they went on to make millions.  So is there some part of your failure that can be re-purposed into something different?  Even if it was not a product, but an idea or a contact that was not successful for the purpose you intended them for, don’t discount them as useless.  Let your creativity take over and try to look at them in a new light.  Enlist help from friends, family, or business associates.  They may be able to see something that you can’t.

Some of the greatest inspirational quotes come from those who failed, many multiple times, but went on to find great success.

  • Success is what you define it to be. So, define success by progress and by never giving up.
  • Success is measured how many times you get back up after being knocked down.
  • There will be times when everything seems to be against you. Remember that the stronger the wind blows, the deeper the roots of the tree grow.
  • Stepping beyond fear is where you will find success.
  • Failure is just one way it did not work. There are many more to try.
  • Doing what you have always done guarantees the result you have always gotten.
  • Failure is just a stepping-stone to show you what does not work. It puts you one step closer to finding what does work.
  • You have to risk great failure to achieve great success.
  • Without failure, we would have no perspective of success.
  • Giving up is the only way to ensure failure. As long as you are still trying, success is still an option.

Most of the great names in history have one thing in common: they persevered through great failures to accomplish great success.  Remember, it is not their failures, no matter how numerous, that we remember.  It is the ultimate success that leaves their mark on the world.


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