Learning From Failure and How To Do It


116: How To Really Learn From Failure


This week we are talking about the “F” word: Failure! And how to really learn from it. It’s a perfect time of year to be talking about it too. Maybe you’re looking at those goals you set out to accomplish way back in January and you’ve found that you have already FAILED. Now, the part of this that can seem weird is that it can feel a bit like going into the past to do some form of a root cause analysis. But that isn’t what we’re talking about.

First, let’s define what we mean by failure. No one ever really defines this. We’re already onto something here aren’t we? We define failure of course we know it is a lot like defining “beauty”. It is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. We need to know what success looks like but we also need to know what our exit strategy needs to be and what would cause us to use it. Failure of a project is not necessarily the direct opposite of success. We also need to define what our expectations are and if it was possible to achieve the results that we wanted to achieve in the first place. Nevertheless, by all means, we don’t define failure personally. You can listen to episode 111 for me on this topic.

Well, let’s get to the tips for truly being able to learn from our failures.

  • Tip #1: Before beginning any new venture, decide not only what success looks like but also, what failure really looks like. These are not exact opposites and there are also other expectations of projects, goals and work that we may have not defined that lead to other levels of success. Once you’ re clear about what failing really means, then it is much easier to learn from.


  • Now we are going to explore some questions that you can use on your teams or even with yourself to help you learn from moments that didn’t turn out like success.
  • What specifically did you discover about yourself, your team and others throughout the process?
  • Did you learn about anything about the way in which people communicate (or not), complete tasks, anything new about the people you serve/clients that you didn’t know before?
  • What did you learn about the way your team works together and how did this instance compare to other times when you succeeded?
  • What new skills or capacities did you and members of your team learn throughout the process that you hadn’t known before the process?
  • Are there any people that we need to get complete with following the lack of success with this project? Is there any trust that may be broken.
  • Our mindset about failing matters much more than failing itself and the work of Carolyn Dweck. Read a summary of her work right here.
  • What is one question that would help your team process through failure? Try one of them out and let us know what you think.
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