Is Failure Good?

Failure is not good.

Failure is the worst thing possible. You feel sick. You feel like you’re going to die. You feel like if you don’t die you might kill yourself.

There is absolutely nothing good about failure. And there’s nothing you can pretend to learn from failure.

Lately, we’ve been living in the Golden Age of Failure Porn. ¬†Everyone wants to share their story. Everyone wants to “fail forward”.

You can’t learn anything from failure because don’t forget that every single moment in your past has added up to that one moment in your present – where you are lying on the floor moaning your painful and abysmal failure.

Stop whining. And stop using the word “failure”. Blah!

Here are better things to learn from. Failure has many cousins. Learn from one of the cousins:

Curiosity: When something happens and you don’t understand why, then ask, “Why?”

Keep asking questions. Clearly, something confusing happened. Ask and ask and ask.

Guess what will happen: you will get answers.

Experiment:

Sometimes people say Thomas Edison failed 999 times before he finally came up with the lightbulb on the 1000th try.

This is a total lie. It is normal in a lab to experiment with many many materials before coming up with the right one.

Oh! You’re experiment didn’t work? OK, change something and let’s try a new experiment.

 

Persistence:

I get asked: how do I market my book? Or my app? Answer: write another book. Write another app.

The best way to get better, to get more known, to learn the subtleties of your art or your field or your sport, is to simply do it again.

Persistence + Love = Abundance.

 

Forgiveness:

I used to live in regret. One time I sold a business for $15 million. Within two years I had lost almost all of the money.

And it wasn’t money on paper. It was money in “real life”. If I tell you how I lost it you would hate me forever. That’s ok. But it’s not important for this answer.

“Failure” is a word used to label a past event. That’s 100% up to you how you label a past event.

When you label a past event “failure” it prevents you from moving beyond the past. You get stuck there. You keep time traveling to the moment of failure under the excuse that there is something to learn there.

The thing you learn first is forgiveness. Then you move back to the present. Get healthy. Be around people you love. Start being creative again.

 

Study:  

When you get a question wrong on a test, a good student doesn’t call it a failure.

It’s a pointer to one single question wrong on a test. Study a bit more next time and you won’t get that question wrong anymore.

Understand and study and remember the correct answer. Don’t keep living in the past where you remember the wrong answer.

Athletes always go over their losses. They study videos. Go over games. Get advice from coaches. The coach doesn’t say, “here’s where you failed!”

He says, “here’s where you should turn right instead of turn left.”

Botvinnik, the World Chess Champion in the 1950s, noticed he often lost chess games to people who smoked.

So he would play practice games against people who would smoke in his face.

He didn’t say “I fail against smokers”. He became the World Chess Champion because of smokers.

“Failure” is not a detail you can learn from. Again, it’s a label that describes nothing except a feeling inside of you.

Details are what you can study and learn from.

Hard Problems:

The key to success is to solve hard problems. Searching the Internet is hard. Google does it better than anyone.

Making an electric car is hard. Tesla does it better than anyone.

Figuring out a market for post-it notes was hard. The inventor tried for over 20 years. Now it’s 3M’s most successful consumer product.

Writing a book is hard. Maybe your last book was bad. That’s ok. That happens to everyone’s first book. Now read a lot of good books so you can solve the hard problem of what makes a good book. Then write.

Failure is not a hard problem. It’s a label. Failure is in the past. Hard problems can be solved right now.

Don’t Care:

When I thought I had failed, what I really was worried about was: would other people think I was a failure?

Yes. Yes they did.

When I stopped caring about that, when I took the word out of my vocabulary, I suddenly stopped caring what people thought.

Then what happened? Only good things.


 

My dad failed. He had a company that went bankrupt. He went broke.

Then he got depressed. He couldn’t stop thinking about the failure.

Then he got sick. He was always sick. Because his body broke down from obsessing on the failure.

Then he got a stroke. Depression + stress + sick = stroke. Then he never recovered and for two years he never moved and could only blink.

Then he died.

I’ve started a lot of businesses. Some worked. Some didn’t. Over a period of many many years. MANY.

I hope I’ve solved a lot of hard problems. Maybe not the best I could’ve but I tried. And then tried again.

I’ve slipped on the ice rink and got up. I’ve cried and wished I were dead but then I started asking questions.

Lots of questions. Lots of studying. Lots of learning. I’ve never failed.

I am still alive.

  • Kids Early Advantage

    Oh my! Guess ur right! Im still alive!

  • Jim Scheller

    Thanks for sharing. And, by the way, if I had known you were a chess master for many years, I wouldn’t have suggested you look me up on lichess!! lol. Be well.

  • AnneK10

    Fantastic read!!! Thanks for the encouragement!!!

  • Exceptional article!
    One of the best I ever read in my life.
    Thank you very much for this great piece.

  • Awesome. Get good at labeling !