The Benefits of Failure and How to Learn From It

Everyone experiences failure of some sort — but there’s a bright side.
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Failure is a result of ambitious goals and could lead to bigger rewards when you ultimately succeed. (Photo: happydancing/Shutterstock)

Failure. It’s one of the hardest things in life to experience, but nobody can escape it. At some point, everyone fails at something.

peter-gibson

“I know for sure that, somehow, everything’s going to work out in the end, so whether I fail or not, it won’t be the end of the world.” -Peter Gibson (Photo: Peter Gibson)

For the entrepreneur, failure can destroy your motivation and crush your dreams — or it can teach an invaluable lesson and ignite a new passion in your soul to succeed.

NCR Silver spoke with Peter Gibson, creator of business development methodology Cross Coaching, and Sheana Ahlqvist, a psychologist and business insights analyst, on what the experience of failure can teach you.

Related: The Worst Business Mistake I Ever Made — and What I Learned

Failure helps you grow

According to Gibson, who mentors small business owners, one of the greatest advantages of failure is that it forces you to take a step back and evaluate where you are — and who you are.

“It helps you find you,” he said. Failure is a huge growth process and can be a very emotional experience. “You have to be willing to face the facts and say, ‘OK, it didn’t work.’” And then step up to the plate again.

It’s a sign of your ambition

“If no one ever fails, the company is probably playing it too safe and missing opportunities to compete,” said Ahlqvist. “The more ambitious your goals, the more likely you are to fail — but you are also more likely to see bigger gains when you ultimately succeed.”

It helps you see the big picture

big-picture

(Photo: Constantin Stanciu/Shutterstock)

“Humans have a fundamental need to belong and be accepted by others.,” said Ahlqvist, who studied quantitative social psychology. And we live in a culture “where our worth is measured by our professional accolades and the money we earn.”

But failure can help us look past these measures and remember what really matters.

It brings you closer to success

Gibson describes failure and success as “a balance of craftsmanship.” For example, he said, “When I have a problem at home, something that I need to fix — say a door handle — it’s not always going to fit the first time. You’ve got to play with it and wiggle it around to get it right. Is that a failure? No. It’s a lesson learned.”

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“The goal of failure is to learn, adapt, iterate and improve.” -Sheana Ahlqvist (Photo: Sheana Ahlqvist)

Ahlqvist talked about “failing small so you don’t fail big.” She gave this example:

“A business owner who is interested in adding a new product line to their store might start by offering pre-orders of the new product to gauge customer interest. If it turns out customers aren’t interested, technically, the idea was a failure.”

The lesson? “You learned what your customer does or doesn’t want without any capital investment. This small failure saved you from buying the inventory and then learning that it was unwanted.”

“The goal of failure is to learn, adapt, iterate and improve,” said Ahlqvist. “Not all failure is created equal. If you didn’t learn something specific or apply what you did learn, it was a wasted opportunity.”

It’s not the end of the world

“I know for sure that, somehow, everything’s going to work out in the end,” said Gibson. “So whether I fail or not, it won’t be the end of the world.”

Gibson, a military history buff, compared running a business to being in the middle of a battle. “You can’t predict where the battle will happen. You’ve got to watch the whole field. When you’re in the middle of the fight, the heat is on and you have to go with what you think is best.”

The main parallel? You must keep going, even when your drive is tested. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Related: When Is it Time to Consider Bankruptcy for Your Small Business

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