Is Failure The Key To Success?

Failure is seen as a negative by most people and it’s no surprise, since society tends to focus on people’s successes rather than highlighting their failures. However this bias towards success rather than failure is detrimental towards the holistic approach of how successful people think and behave.

If you study successful people closely they actually promote their failures, attributing some of their greatest personal, professional and entrepreneurial lessons learnt to the pits of their unsuccessful stories. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs fail in a large majority of their business endeavours, or at the very least they have just as many failures as they have success stories, so it’s logical to deduce that failing or failure has no bearing on their overall level of success.

Failure isn’t necessarily limited to business or finance, every person has endured the pain of failure in some or many aspects of their lives but ultimately it is how successful people cope and manage with these failures that sets them apart from the rest. Besides managing adversity well, we are told that one of the biggest attributes to overcoming failure is the art of failing fast!

How fast you fail seems to be the number one aspect of overcoming adversity!

As long as you learn meaningful lessons from your failures and endeavour not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. Even the greatest minds in the world, with the highest levels of mental fortitude and impressive abilities of bouncing back quickly, openly accept the fact that failures are an important part of the journey towards success.

When someone thinks of an idea or concept and they look to manifest it into reality, well-thought ideas take a lot of time and energy in order to conceptualise well, and the bigger the idea the more time is needed to iron out the frame work.

Ideas themselves are very personal to the individual and when that spark ignites, people tend to throw themselves whole-heartedly into making their ideas a reality and tend to get emotionally invested in the result. Again this is understandable, since ideas come from within and there is no way to avoid putting yourself and your ideas out there for the world to see. If your ideas fail to take off, it’s easy to see why people can harbour a strong sense of rejection.

Couple this with wasted time, money and energy, failure can be a hard pill to swallow and it often comes with an internal dialog that consists of questioning your actions and thought process before you can move forward and try again with something else. This is true wether you’re an organisation or individual with a failed idea.

Ideas that fail to take off tend to follow a common sequence before the creator of the idea is truly accepting that something, somewhere has not delivered in the way it was expected to.

The Road To Failure

The Idea is realised and launched ~ The idea starts slower than you projected ~ The general market place observes yet ignores the product/service ~ Orders fail to materialise ~ The creator of the idea tries alternative methods of stimulating demand ~ Critics and public opinion are not very favourable ~ Examining external factors as to why results are not fruitful (potentially turning into a blame game; a very unproductive path to take) ~ Time, money and energy invested begins to slow and eventually stops altogether ~ Idea is left on the shelf to see if more notoriety is gained over time ~ Acceptance that the product/service is not viable/meeting expectation ~ Review what went wrong ~ Mourning and digesting the reality of failing


Every idea and market have their own idiosyncrasies, but in general terms you can apply the road to failure using many, if not all the stages listed above.

So since all failures can be influenced by market forces, the economic climate, competition, timing, and many other aspects, it is not conducive to conclude that all ideas that fail are bad, and subsequently it doesn’t equate that all bad ideas fail either.

I often use smoking cigarettes as a metaphor and it’s useful again here. Smoking is intrinsically an awful idea within itself!! It KILLS the person slowly and has absolutely little-to-no positive benefits. If someone pitched the concept of smoking cigarettes to any sane minded individual, I imagine that most would clearly say “what a stupid product to make”, however the tobacco industry is one of the most profitable and stable industries in the world, and it often cultivates life-long customers!

So you have to recognise that with ideas, products and services, it is better to adopt a numbers-game approach to success-vs-failure. Yes many of your ideas will fail and that’s OK! Say it out loud and finally embrace the FACT:


The key thing to note is to learn your lessons, don’t repeat the same mistakes, fail FAST and move onto the next idea.

The Roulette Example

Look at the game of roulette in a casino, the odds are skewed in the house’s favour by the tiniest of amounts. In the USA the house has a 5.28% advantage, and on European tables the house has a 2.70% advantage. For the purpose of this article, let’s translate this as follows:

USA: the house is guaranteed to win only with 1-in-20 spins, the rest of the time the house has an equal chance of winning and losing

Europe: the house is guaranteed to win only with 1-in-40 spins, the rest of the time the house has an equal chance of winning and losing

(this is according to

Relating this to success and failure in practical terms, 1-in-20 (5%) or 1-in-40 (2.5%) of your ideas are guaranteed to succeed, everything else is even-money and probably has an uncomfortable probability of failure! And yet despite the odds being ever so slightly in the casinos favour, the gambling industry makes billions in profits globally, profiting immensely from such a tiny positive expectancy!

I hope you can extract a key lesson from the above example and realise that failing is part of the ride, but if you keep on going and rolling the dice, the lessons you learn from your failures, not repeating the same mistakes, spotting failure fast and moving onto your next opportunity, coupled with the desire to succeed and reach your aspirations is all you need to skew the game of life in your favour. Eventually the odds will be on your side, however tiny they may be, so your journey to success is inevitable.

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