How to Fail Intelligently

Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.
William Saroyan

Failure is certain on the way to success. There is no way we can succeed without experiencing failure here and there. But failure could have either one of these two roles: either it becomes an obstacle that hinders you from success or it becomes a stepping stone which brings you closer to success. What makes the difference is whether or not you fail intelligently.

Failing intelligently is failing in such a way that you can extract as many lessons as possible to boost your journey to success. If you just fail, you can extract only a few or even no lesson out of it and as a result it won’t help you much to get closer to success. But if you fail intelligently, the failure will teach you a lot and it will be your stepping stone to success.

You can’t avoid failure, so every time you fail, make sure that you fail intelligently. Here are eight tips to do that:

1. Learn from the failure of other people

It’s good to learn as much as possible about the people who have walked the way before you. By learning from their failure, you do not need to experience it yourself. Why should you fall to the same pitfalls if you can avoid them? Find out why they failed and what are the lessons they got so that you don’t need to find them yourself the hard way.

This step will save you a lot of time on your journey to success. Avoid falling to the same pitfalls at all costs.

2. Learn from the success of other people

Besides learning about what make other people fail, you should also learn about what make other people succeed. Again, it will save you a lot of time since you do not have to figure it out yourself. To do this, look at the people who succeed in your niche and find out the factors that make them succeed. You can learn both their personal characteristics and the characteristics of their products and services.

3. Learn from your experiences

If you have tried to do the same thing before, accumulate as many lessons as possible for your next attempt. Review how you did it, find out what worked and what didn’t work.

For this purpose, it’s a good to have a journal. All the lessons you get from your experiences can be written there so that reviewing them is easy.

4. Make sure you can manage the risk

Before you take action, you should be sure that you can manage the risk. For example, it is not wise to speculate 80% of your saving on uncertain investment when you have a family to support. Just make sure that when the worst thing happens, you can still handle it.

5. Be willing to take risk

While you should calculate risk, it doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of taking risk. Being willing to take risk allows you to do your best. The role of calculating risk is to help you take the risk more confidently since you know that you are prepared for it.

6. Measure your performance

Before taking action, find ways to measure your performance. Having high-quality feedback is essential to fail intelligently and one important way to get such feedback is through measuring your action. To do this, first of all you should pick the right dimensions to measure, and then find the best ways to measure them.

What dimensions to take depends on your goal. For instance, if your goal in personal finance is financial freedom, then the right dimension to measure is passive income and not net worth.

7. Have some people you trust watch you

By having some people watch you, you will be able to get feedback from them. To make sure that you get high-quality feedback, you should ask only the people who you trust can give constructive feedback. Ideally they should have different backgrounds so that they can give you feedback through different perspectives.

8. Give your best shot

You won’t get valuable lessons unless you do your best. By doing your best, the feedback you get will give you lessons to move yourself beyond your current limit of ability. Otherwise, you will only stay where you are. Tips #1, #2, and #3 should help you give your best shot.

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  1. Donald, Great Article. I always say that there is nothing called failure. When we do not achieve something we wanted, we have not failed, we have gained wisdom.
    That said, your tips are wonderful for someone to lead a much more proactive life,

    My Positivity Blog

  2. Seeker,
    Thanks for sharing your perspective. The mindset we use to deal with failure is indeed important for our success.

  3. What you mentioned really applies to me as someone who has failed in life. At first I saw my failures as obstacles but later on I realized that the choices I made brought me to “forks in the road” moments where I can see those failures as stepping stones.

    It took a while for me to see that failing college course, not being sure of my future, and navigating aimlessly through life were all within my control.

    Once I made a determination to follow the mantra, “You Will Because You Can,” and started taking small, positive, achievable steps then and only then did my life turn around.

  4. Steve,
    I’m glad you share your experience. It’s often difficult to see the truth about failure when we are in the midst of a bad situation. Creating a mantra like you did is a good way to remind us.

  5. The problem for a lot of people is that they are afraid to fail. They do everything they can to make sure everything falls into place. And when they do fail, they are too busy sulking around to even take note of all the lessons being presented to them. We should all have the mindset that failure is just a stepping stone to success.

  6. I agree, Jay. Fear of failure is a big problem. If we could see failure as stepping stone, we will be able to achieve more.

  7. […] you need to make room for failure, you shouldn’t just fail. You need to fail intelligently. That means each failure should teach you something. Don’t just fail and get nothing out of it. […]

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