How Do You Turn Failure into Success?
Updated: Sep 8
Thomas Edison famously said this about invention:
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Not everyone would continue to work diligently in the face of so much failure. His persistence led to the light bulb which ironically became a symbol of that sudden ‘aha’ moment.
Failure can be a treasure trove of innovation if you are able to reframe it in a way that turns it into inspiration.
In Designing Your Life, Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, provide a framework to build, what they call, Failure Immunity. They posit that success and failure are equally beneficial.
Failure puts into clear focus that action is necessary.
Learning effectively from failure requires identifying the failure quickly, categorizing the type of failure and incorporating the improvements that you learn from the failure.
They categorize failure into three types:
Screwups: Simple mistakes about things that you normally get right.
Example: Forgetting someone's birthday
Weaknesses: Mistakes that you make over and over. These are characteristics that may be part of your makeup. You can choose to change them or adapt to living with them.
Example: Staying up until the wee hours of the morning to complete a quarterly report because you procrastinate when it comes to big reports.
These first two may not require much action. The screw up may never happen again and you may have accepted your idiosyncrasies.
The last type of failure is the one that offers the chance to grow and change personally and professionally.
Growth Opportunities: Failures that didn't have to happen OR can be prevented from happening again. The cause of the failure is identifiable and fixable.
Example: A client meeting goes badly because you underestimated the impact of a recent organizational change and failed to check in with your clients before proceeding with your meeting.
To be able to transform a failure into a Growth Opportunity, ponder the following questions:
Does the growth opportunity offer an invitation for real improvement?
What is there to learn?
What went wrong (the critical failure factor)?
What went right (the critical success factor)?
Using failure to your advantage is all about taking away the vital lessons that failure can teach. Treating failure as something that is as valuable as success can lead to amazing results.