How to fail well
[ business , ideas ]

In my first job, my boss passed down an insight I’ll never forget:

“No one cares if you fail, they just care about your rate of improvement.”

If your rate of improvement is acceptable, why should they care? Everyone fails, and given enough time you’ll eventually be where they want you to be.

Problems arise when people can’t trust you to improve. That’s what breaks opportunities and relationships, not failing itself.

In my opinion, this is the difference between someone failing poorly and someone failing well. Here are four traps I’ve found that erode that trust:

  1. Avoiding responsibility If you don’t think you have a problem, you can’t fix it. Simple as that. Without personal responsibility, there is no improvement.
  2. Poor root cause analysis If you don’t find the root cause of your failures, they will come back and haunt you. There’s little patience for people who repeat the same mistakes.
  3. Lack of follow-through Once you know the problem, you can’t let go of it until you have a permanent system that guarantees it won’t happen again.
  4. Not capping your downside You want to be taking big swings, but not so big they take you out of the game entirely. If the downside of failing is too big, you might not have a chance to learn and try again.

If you avoid these mistakes for a while, next time you fail people around you will shrug their shoulders thinking “Oh well, I’m sure he’s got this”. And hey, as a bonus you’ll improve faster. Happy failing!