Why failing harder helps you succeed faster

by | May 7, 2012

You remember, of course, the wildly successful The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Old Spice ads.

You may not know, however, the radical philosophy that spawned them.

The ads were created by Wieden+Kennedy, one of the most innovative and successful ad agencies in the world.

On a wall of their headquarters in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon hangs a huge white canvas filled with tens of thousands of clear plastic pushpins.

It’s only by stepping away from the pushpin mural that the slogan appears: Fail Harder.

As an abject failure myself, I’m enamored with the motto.

I love a good failure, and I have the greatest respect for people who fail frequently and productively.

I have little respect for people who fail from a lack of trying, and I steer clear of those who fail often but never seem to learn the right lessons.

Productive failure is the fastest and most valuable school — provided you have the right attitude.

As Henry Ford said,

“Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.

The key is to actually begin anew, savvier, tougher, and even more enthusiastic. Few people do.

The school of hard knocks provides little education to those who focus more on their bruises than on jumping off the mat.

Just ask Winston Churchill — a master of productive failure. Said he:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

If all you learn from failure is that you shouldn’t have done the thing that failed, well, you’ve flunked out of the school of failure. There’s a big red F slashed through your report card. You can pack your bags and join the ranks of the armchair criticizers — materially comfortable and spiritually miserable.

As Elbert Hubbard said,

“The greatest mistake a person can make is to be afraid of making one.”

Wayne Gretzky added,

“You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

The committed innovator aspires to failure. Every successful person has earned a Ph.D. in failure.

Talk-show host Sally Jesse Raphael couldn’t pay her credit card bill for twenty-six years. She moved twenty-five times looking for work. She was fired eighteen times. She worked for twenty-six years before she earned an annual salary of $22,000, and she suffered through periods of living on food stamps and sleeping in her car.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen submitted their Chicken Soup for the Soul manuscript to thirty-three publishers before finally being accepted by number thirty-four. They’ve since sold more than 100 million copies.

Roy H. Williams reveals,

“Follow a trail of bold mistakes and at the end of them you will find a genius.”

Frequent failure means you’re trying hard. If you try hard enough for long enough — and learn the right lessons from your failures — success is inevitable.

As Thomas J. Watson says,

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple. Double your rate of failure.”

Adversity and failure will overtake you at some point in your life no matter what you do. Why not ride out to meet them, fight your battles, and get it over with so you can enjoy success sooner?

The more you try to escape adversity and failure, the slower your path to success.

As Napoleon Hill said,

“Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

But you can’t cultivate those seeds and harvest the benefits if all you focus on is the pain of failure.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The things which hurt, instruct.”

The challenge is to learn the right lessons from the things which hurt.

Are you learning from your failures to stop trying, or are you learning how to try more effectively the next time? Are you getting smarter, or simply more wounded, tired, and jaded?

Look at yourself. Now look at the person you know you could be. Now look back at yourself.

Sadly, the person you could be is not you. But if you started failing harder and smarter, you could become that person.

Anything is possible when you fail hard and learn fast.

So get back up on the horse…

(For tools to leverage your failures into your purpose, click here to download my free toolkit now.)


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