Failure Quotient: A Key to Living a Successful Life

When it comes to measuring someone’s potential in life, we are familiar with terms like Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and more recently Emotional Quotient (EQ). But there is another quality that’s also important. In fact, I believe that this is a key to living a successful life. I’d call it Failure Quotient (FQ).

What is Failure Quotient? Here is my definition:

Failure Quotient is a measurement of someone’s ability to fail intelligently.

Failure Quotient is about failing intelligently. It’s about being able to use failures to advance your life. The more you are able to do that, the higher your FQ is.

A good example is Thomas Edison. He failed no less than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. He didn’t view them negatively, though. Instead, he viewed it as finding 10,000 ways that didn’t work. He used them to point him in the right direction.

Another example is Richard Branson. Talking about building a business, he said that “you’re not pushing the limits if everything you do turns into gold.” This is FQ in action.

Now, how would it be like if someone has a high FQ?

Here are eight characteristics of someone with a high FQ:

1. They experiment a lot.

Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. ~ Thomas J. Watson

If you want to succeed in life, you need to “double your rate of failure.” But how do you that? By experimenting a lot. That’s what someone with a high FQ does.

The fact is, if you go beyond your comfort zone and try something new, you will experience failures. But that’s how you move to the next level in life.

2. They maintain their enthusiasm in the face of failures.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill.

Needless to say, failures don’t feel good. But someone with a high FQ can maintain their enthusiasm in the face of failures. This is what differentiates them from other people. This is what enables them to keep moving forward while others stop.

3. They have a long-term vision.

Someone with a high FQ doesn’t just fail randomly. They have a long-term vision. They know what they are looking for.

This vision enables them to have grit: passion and perseverance for long-term goals. This is why they can maintain their enthusiasm in the face of failures.

4. They choose the right experiments to do.

Someone with a high FQ knows that their resources are limited, so they choose the right experiments to do. They do only the ones that would maximize their learning experience and bring them closer to their vision.

5. They fail fast and fail cheap.

Again, because they know that their resources are limited, they use the same mantra that Google X uses: fail fast and fail cheap. They don’t put too much time, money, and energy into something that’s still unproven. Instead, they put just enough resources to validate the idea before moving forward.

6. They learn as much as possible from each failure.

When a failure happens (and it will happen), they make the most out of it. They see it as a learning opportunity and extract as many lessons as possible from it. They want to make sure that they don’t miss anything for their next attempt.

7. They iterate to awesomeness.

For someone with a high FQ, iteration is their friend. They iterate to awesomeness by becoming better and better with each attempt.

8. They pivot if necessary.

There are times when a failure shows that they are moving in the wrong direction. In such a case, they don’t hesitate to pivot. They don’t get trapped by sunk cost fallacy. They apply Jeff Bezos’s mantra: be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details.


As you can see, the concept of FQ is simple but it’s not easy to implement. It’s worth the effort, though. It can help you reach your full potential.


  1. This is awesome. It’s a reminder that has come at the right time as I work on setting up a solid business. I have been applying some of these principles and I am glad to have read them in this article. Thanks Donald

  2. This is what every entrepreneur should read, it really showcase the Silicon Valley mindset perfectly. Thank you for writing this up Donald, I’ll be referring back to this in times of need to remind myself to stand back up after failures.

  3. really inspired. I will apply this principles in my carrier and business.thanks

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