How to Fail Successfully

How to Fail Successfully
For many of us who are digital marketers, we love the concept of split testing. The concept of split testing is to try several different methods in order to find the one that does the best. We learn which method does the worst and turn those off, and then create variations of the methods that do the best. Then we can repeat that split testing process so we can find more variations of what’s working best. 

As we continue to split test, we can get better advertisements or better landing pages. It’s a formula that helps us become much more successful in our digital marketing efforts. What I want to talk about today is the concept of split testing in our lives, also known as, how to fail successfully. 

Redefining Failure

What does it mean to fail? In “Failing Successfully” published in BYU Magazine, Kevin J. Worthen wrote, “It is a truth that is hard to deny, yet difficult to accept. It is this: We will all fail. More than once. Every day.” 

As entrepreneurs, we will most likely fail hundreds and thousands of times. However, there is nothing wrong with this. Failure is expected; it is inevitable. The issue isn’t whether or not we fail; it is whether or not we learn from our failure and use those mistakes to propel us to success. 

Worthen continued, “There is a difference between failing, even repeatedly, and being a failure. . . . Failure is an inevitable part of the quest. In our quest for perfection, how we respond when we fail will ultimately determine how well we will succeed.”

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Here are three ways we can fail successfully: 

1. Learn From Failure

Around 12 or 15 years ago, I was leaving for work and I thoughtlessly asked my wife what she was doing that day. However, she had already told me she had something very important going on that day. To her, I made it clear that I didn’t remember what she had told me. 

This was very hurtful to my wife and it caused some marital discord for us. It was completely my fault and she had every reason to be frustrated with me. After this experience, I chose to learn from that failure. I learned to be a better listener and show her I cared through remembering what she’s already told me. That’s split testing in life. It’s a failure I had that helped me learn how to act differently the next time.

When we run a split test and experience failure, we need to learn from it and make sure we don’t repeat it. When we run a split test and it goes well, we need to learn from it and do more of it. In my experience, I learned how to be a better husband. As entrepreneurs, we can learn how to run more successful systems and processes. 

The co-founder of KISSmetrics, Hiten Shah, once spent over $1 million on a company they never ended up launching. He said that “We were perfectionist so we built the best thing we could without even understanding what our customers cared about.” (Source: Buffer) 

This is a classic mistake: building what you want to build and then trying to find customers for it, instead of finding your customer first and building what they want. However, despite this setback, Shah chose to learn from his mistake instead of accepting failure. He said, “We have now learned to spend smart, optimize for learning and focus on customer delight.” Since this experience, Shah has co-founded two successful companies KISSmetrics, and CrazyEgg which we’ve used at Monetization Nation. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure 

A lot of times people are afraid of failure. They’re afraid to try because they’re afraid they may fail. They’re afraid to start a business because they’re afraid they may fail. They’re afraid to try a new branch division in their company because it may fail. This fear of failure can be extremely paralyzing. 

Worthen said, “Fear of failure should not keep us from trying new and hard things in our quest for perfection.” We only fail when the fear of failure consumes us and prevents us from trying in the first place.

Failure is part of our life. Failure is part of our business. To not act because of a fear of failure will ensure that we will never succeed. We have to be able to learn from that failure to achieve success.

Psychology Today posted an interesting article in which they talked about a study where they had people kick an American football over a goalpost on an unmarked football field. Each kicker was asked to estimate how far and high the goalpost was after they made their kick.

The study found that the people who failed estimated that the goalpost was further away and higher, than those who succeeded. So what do we learn from this? I think that the study shows how failure can distort our perceptions, to make our goals seem harder than they actually are. However, if we can change our mindset on how we view failure and maybe even see it as a learning opportunity as a step towards our success, we may find we have more confidence and motivation to continue to pursue our goals rather than give up. If we don’t fear failure, we refuse to let it distort our perceptions. 

3. Don’t Give Up

When you think of successful people today, what are some of the first names that come to your mind? As entrepreneurs, I think a lot of us would say Elon Musk as he’s become one of the wealthiest people in the world. Yet, even Elon Musk has had a career filled with failures. However, failing does not make us failures; giving up does.

Musk helped found PayPal, where the company’s first product was rated as one of the top 10 Worst business ideas. However, that public failure didn’t stop him.. PayPal later became one of the most successful companies. Musk eventually sold it and used those funds to propel his successful ventures he’s known for today.

When Musk moved onto SpaceX, he had three rockets literally blow up in his face. SpaceX was on the verge of bankruptcy, and it may have appeared to everyone else that he had failed. But he hadn’t, because he hadn’t given up. Tesla Motors also experienced failure. In 2014, three of the Model S cars self combusted in six weeks because of a battery fault. Then in March of 2018, Musk had to recall 123,000 Model S vehicles, because of a fault in the power steering components. 

Yet even with these failures, we consider Musk successful. Why? Because he never gave up. He continued to persist towards success. He kept going. Now, Tesla Motors is one of the world’s most famous automotive and energy brands with a value of $650 billion (Source: CEO Today). 

A motivational speaker once said, “We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just on the other side of failure.”

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My point for today is that failing does not make us failures. When we hide from the possibility of failure, we will sabotage ourselves and prevent ourselves from achieving success. When we learn from our failures, we can use that to grow. It’s an essential element of achieving our success. Let’s just learn from our mistakes. Let’s not give up. Let’s be propelled towards success because of those failures. 

Thanks for joining me today for this episode. I wish you success in your failing and learning. 

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. We will all experience failure in our lives. How we react to the failure is what really determines if it is a failure or not. 
  2. We should learn from our failures and see each failure as a step towards success. 
  3. We shouldn’t be afraid of failure. Fear of failure can hold us back from accomplishing great things. 
  4. We shouldn’t give up after we fail. We should get back up and try again. 
  5. Failing does not make us failures; giving up does.

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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