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Double Your Rate Of Failure

sunny beach day with old boat washed up on shore. a failed boating outing
03 October 2023

Thank you Tom Watson Jr. for this thought.  In sales we hear a similar idea. “It’s a numbers game.  Make more calls, you’ll get more sales.” I don’t think Mr. Watson thought about it this way.  Let me explain.


People in sales believe in the Law of Averages.  Simply put, the more effort (sales related activity), the “no’s” will average out with the “yes’s” over time. I can remember as a young sales rep, my manager was trying to pick me up after I had gotten a no.  “With every no, you are one step closer to the yes.”  Thinking this way does 2 things.  First, it motivates you to focus on the activity.  In some ways, it even conditions you to look forward to hearing “no”. Second, by getting in the reps, the sales activity, you will be a better sales rep.  You will hone your craft.  Your nerves will subside, your ability to listen and pivot when needed will sharpen.


Similar to Watson’s idea…the faster you can get to your ‘no’s’, the faster you can get to ‘yes’.

I think there are a few other things that may have been in Mr. Watson’s mind when he said this. 


Keeps our ego in check


Failure is a force in humility.  To grow and improve we must have humility.  Be humble. I believe we learn more about ourselves in failure than we do in success. I am not suggesting that having an ego is bad.  Quite the opposite.  Having an ego can be very helpful.  However, like most things in life-moderation is important. A large ego can blind us to the critical feedback we need.  A little ego…well frankly, it is what is going to get you off the ground when you get knocked down.  Failure will give you perspective.


It forces us to think outside the box

I can’t recall who said, “if all you have is a hammer, pretty soon everything looks like a nail.”  This is one of my favorite adages.  It illustrates a BIAS in our thinking.  When you fail, one of 3 things is going to happen: a) you will try the same solution again (and again) b) you will give up c) you will find a different way to approach the problem.


If you can remember during failure that you just successfully found a way that does not work, you are one your way to finding the solution.  Thomas Edison said, “I discovered 2000 ways not to make a lightbulb, I just needed to find one that worked.” People that are very successful will often point to the failures they had as the most important part of their journey.  Go figure.


message board with think outside the box written on it

It brings us closer to our goals

This is really just an extension to the point above.  Every time we learn that we failed, regardless of how large of a ‘thing’ it was…we are one step closer.


Learn from others

Something happens when you fail.  Some take longer to get to this point; others get there right away.  Which is, seek a mentor or a coach.  Look for people who have accomplished some variation of what you are trying to do…and learn from them.  This is connected to the ego point above.  When your ego is in check, you are open to seeking help. 


I still get surprised when I meet people who would not consider looking for help.  Looking for people who have found their way to the solution.  I’ll admit, not everyone is going to share their journey with you.  Not everyone is going to be available and willing.  You will be surprised how many will.  You may just find that their path to success was on the shoulders of others.


Failure makes success that much sweeter

Duh.  I know.  One of the most satisfying feelings is to fail, regroup and then succeed.  I just don’t think we value success as much when we hit it out of the park on the first attempt.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that getting it right the first time is bad. Who would WANT to spend $100,000 over and over again to get it right if they had a chance to do it on the first try.  However, as for creating a mindset about failure; knowing you are going to enjoy the win after a failure or setback, more and more…that can be enough to dust you off.


Failing can have a stigma.  Something we put on ourselves and something society brands us with. There have been times in my life when my fear of failure was so great for a particular project/idea/goal, that I never really got started.  That is the real injustice when we think about failure in a slanted way.  How many great ideas or life-saving solutions were never started because of this fear of failure?


The next time you lose that game, miss the mark, get told no…the next time you try and don’t succeed, smile and remember that you are closer now to success than you were just a minute ago.


If you have a fear of failing, or feel like you are running into a wall more than you should (or would like), I would love to talk to you.  I help business owners and executives break-through and create massive value for their business, their families…and most of all, for themselves.  Connect with me for a few minutes.




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