How to Fail Your Way to the Top

Every single grown man wants to be successful. He wants to be the master of his own domain. He wants to be the boss. He most certainly doesn’t want to fail, but this is where the secrets to success are hidden. Your success greatly depends on your ability to surf in the wake of your mistakes. Let me explain.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

When you’re afraid to fail, you’re also afraid to move. This is a fact. If you can’t risk it, you clearly can’t do it, right? I guess success isn’t your thing then. Or is it? You have to fail because it proves (to you and the world) that you’ve got the cojones to go for it. Grown men go for it, by the way.

The honest truth here is that failure is feedback, and feedback is the breakfast of champions. (I actually had that printed out and hung up on my wall when I was still a corporate cubicle jockey.) Life is a series of trial and error situations, whether we like to admit it or not. Take your love life, for example. Do you think you would have been such a fumbling idiot with your high school girlfriend if you knew then what you know now? Hell no. You’re a stud now. But you had to learn and fail along to way. The same applies to every other great success in life: fail all the way to the top. These are the secrets to succeeding through failure.

Fail Often

The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. – Peter Drucker

The single, most important thing you can do for your success is stick your neck out and go for broke. You need to flip a switch and start seeing failure as a part of the process of building success. Instead of it being derailing, it’s considered detouring. You need to be prepared to lose many times over before you truly start racking up the wins.

Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before his lightbulb worked. He was prepared to lose 10,000 times because he knew he would eventually light the world. And he did.

In sales trainings all over the country, salespeople are told to “go for no when making sales calls. At first it sounds counterproductive, but the proof is in the push. If you set a goal to hear no 30 times, you’ll do everything you can to reach that number. In the process, you’ll hear yes, make appointments, sales, referrals, and build your business. If you’re seeking just positive results, you’ll stop when you feel like you’ve got enough. If you push beyond those results to achieve more failures, you’ll inevitably achieve more successes along the way.

Fail Early

The second truth about modern man is that he wants to be successful sooner, rather than later. In order to master anything, you need to put in roughly 10,000 hours of practice. Whether it’s a piano concerto or building the next interstellar spacecraft, you need to put in some serious work right now. The sooner you get to failing, the sooner you reach the success you’re seeking.

Think of failing as doing trial runs. You want to knock out as many as possible before you step out into the spotlight, right? So get a ton of dress rehearsals under your belt as fast as you can so you’re a seasoned professional ahead of schedule. If you’ve ever played an instrument, you know you’ve got to play that song a thousand times before you can essentially play it blindfolded and drunk. Any musician will tell you that’s a pretty spot-on indicator of competency.

Fail with People Watching

When you tell yourself you’re going to do something and you fail instead, it’s not a big deal. When you tell others about your plan, you will hold yourself accountable to them. Even if you fail, you’ll report back and, more often than not, have a new plan to move forward already. There’s such a gift in failing publicly. When you’re in the spotlight, you’re more willing to fail, learn, adjust, and try again because you know people are watching.

It’s also a powerful motivator because you don’t want to let anyone down or be seen as a quitter. You’ll put in the work because now your reputation is on the line. Rudy (arguably, one of the greatest movies ever) showcased his tireless audacity to look failure and shortcomings in the face and press on anyway. He was regarded as the hardest-working guy on the team, and admired for his tenacity and heart. Be that guy. Press on through failures with people watching. Entrepreneur has a great article on failing with employees too.

Fail Forward

This is John Maxwell’s term. It refers to moving forward through failure and leveraging the lesson you learned from it to further your success. Sometimes we fail and it stops us dead in our tracks. We take it personally and it can feel impossible to bounce back from that. Remember: just because you failed at accomplishing something does not mean you, personally, are a failure. Sometimes you just have to regroup and try again. Then again, sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move on. That’s a different article altogether. Both, however, are considered succeeding through failure.

Listen and learn from each no or failed venture, adjust, and keep going. When you’re no longer fazed by failure, you graduate to a new level of man: The Achiever. He brings his ideas to life because nothing can stop him. 

What’s your biggest failure-lesson? What do you do when you fail to hit your mark? Share in the comments!

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The Author

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton is the founder and coach at The Sharp Gentleman, and helps men earn more respect while gaining confidence in who they are. He is a certified relationship coach and loves writing about men's fashion, style, character-building, relationships, travel, adventure, and more.