How to Extract Maximum Value From Failure

We rationalize failure with such ease that we often overlook what it’s telling us. Here’s what failure could really mean – and why you should pay attention. 

In even the best of times, it’s hard to win. Really hard. But in the midst of a pandemic, it can seem downright impossible.  While grit and perseverance should be your mainstays, it’s important to remember that even in a crisis, failure is still a great teacher. The will to survive should not obscure the lessons that impending failure may be trying to impart. If you blindly resist obstacles without contemplating what looming failure is signaling, you might lose that one death-defying chance to pivot, which could have changed everything.

Here are three lessons failure may be trying to teach you that should never be ignored:

1) Your idea does not have product market fit. Or in other words, not enough people experience the problem you are trying to solve, or are willing to pay enough for your solution to make it a viable business.

2) You are missing a skillset or personality trait to execute your vision. No founder has the full complement of skills to single-handedly realize their own dream. Failure may be trying to amplify your shortcomings so you get to work mitigating them, whether that means hiring to fill the gaps, seeking an outside investor to help you go the distance, or something else.

3) This one is harder to hear, but failure might be trying to tell you that you are just not cut out for this pursuit. Or more often, that your words and your heart are not aligned. There is often a massive delta between what we envision and what manifests, and no one is condemned to live another person’s life if you change your mind.  Failure might be telling you to cut bait and follow your heart.

A wise colleague recently said, “There are only two possible outcomes: success and learning. There is no such thing as failure.”

Most likely, any “failure” you are facing is just trying to test your resolve, and sharpen your grit against the grindstone of rejection. In which case, shake it off. Just don’t get used to it.


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join me Friday for a live recording of the Financially Speaking podcast with Mitch Slater, where we’ll discuss challenges facing business owners and advice for navigating them.

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