Failure is a core component of our learning process. If we truly want to reach our full potential we should go beyond the concept of embracing failure and we should be learning how to fail intelligently. This means that we accept full responsibility for the failure, learn all of the lessons it affords us and ensures that we don’t make the same mistake twice.
Some of the most successful people in the world will tell you that failure is a precondition to success. A good example is Thomas Edison. He failed no less than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. He obviously didn’t let that perturb him, instead, he saw it as the 10,000 ways that didn’t work.
Another great example is J.k Rowling who said “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I've met people who don't want to try for fear of failing.”
Whilst there is no one rule for how to fail intelligently – it’s entirely relevant to your personal goals and journey – there are certain common characteristics shared by those who know how to fail intelligently.
1. They maintain their confidence and enthusiasm in the face of failure
“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” - C.S. Lewis
Failing doesn’t feel good. However, those who know how to fail intelligently, can maintain their confidence in the face of failure. This is what allows them to keep moving forward whilst their competitors stop. Its a tenacious part of their character that is fueled from failure.
2. They have a long-term goal
People that fail intelligently, don’t fail randomly. They have a long-term vision. They know what they are looking for and failing takes them one step closer to it.
3. They know how to fail in the right way
They fail fast and cheap. They don’t put too much time, money, and energy into something that’s uncertain. Instead they put in the bare minimum, so that they can validate their idea and then move on to the next without too much damage.
4. They see failing as a science experiment
When a failure occurs, they extract everything possible from it. They use it to predict future outcomes and they want to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes in their next attempt. They see it as the ultimate learning opportunity.
5. They don’t mind tearing up their idea at any point
There are times when a failure will show them that their ideas are, on the wrong track. In this scenario they aren’t afraid of, tearing up their plans and going back to the drawing room. They don’t get trapped by their ego, they simply start again, knowing that they found a valuable lesson.
6. They experiment a lot
People that want to succeed understand that they have to “double their rate of failure”. As being successful means experimenting (and failing) a lot. Experimenting repetitively also allows them to perfect their method of failing intelligently. They have the right processes in place so that failures advance their purpose instead of destroy them. This is what differentiates them from others and this is what allows them to get up in the face of several failing attempts.