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Fail forward

Let’s talk about failure. Most of us hate to fail. It can be painful, embarrassing, or scary. It can impact our self-worth if we let it. But if we can let failure move us forward, motivate us, or shift our perspective, then shouldn’t we see it as part of the path to success?

There are failures in every success story. You could look at any successful person, in any field, and find failures in their story. Let me share a few of those stories, in case you’re not familiar with them.

NBA legend Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


Early in his career, Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”


Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job, but said, “failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”


Steve Jobs, was fired from the company he co-founded, only to return years later to become their CEO. He said, “It turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me…it freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”


It took tenacity for Thomas Edison to invent the light bult, about which he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


We need to remember this not just for ourselves, but also for those we lead. We need to help our teams, our families, our peers, to embrace the lessons that failure gifts us with. Help them use their failures to learn and grow, recognizing that every mistake—every failure—teaches us something.


Let’s think about failure differently, learn from it, and see how it changes how we think about success. Fail. Fail better. Fail forward. And keep moving on that path to success.

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