• What if this blog doesn’t pan out?
  • What if I launch my product and nobody shows up?
  • What if I quit my job and my new business isn’t profitable?

We are paralyzed by the fear of failure. Well, let’s go there: what if?

What’s really happening is the outcome of this scenario didn’t turn out like we hoped. We wanted something to happen a certain way and it didn’t. Ok, so what we’ve found is this did not produce the desired results. This is something that didn’t work. It’s important to see it this way and not wrap your identity in it.

You are not the results of what you do.

People are not failures. You are not a failure just because something turned out differently than you hoped. Take responsibility for mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you have to wrap your identity in the results of what you do.

Course Correction

People see failure in the Shoots & Ladders sense—they see it as a baseline that you return to or fall back on.

The reality is it works however you choose to believe it does. If you believe failure means you fall back to the beginning and start all over, that is how it will work for you.

I like to think of failure as simply course correction. You head in a direction until you reach a point where you realize this thing isn’t working out. That’s good! That’s a kind of feedback. At this point, you know that this direction is no longer working. You now have the opportunity to pivot. You can change course.

Now, you’re heading in a new direction, but it’s still forward. You’re still making progress, you’re just changing the course. You’re letting one thing take you to the next.

Fail Forward

If you choose to see failure as data—something that didn’t work—you actually come away from it with a lot more experience and knowledge. At this point, you have the opportunity to fail forward and move on to the next thing, or fail backward.

Failing backward is discouraging. It seems like you’re resetting and starting all over every single time something goes wrong. But instead of thinking of it in those terms, think of it as failing forward. Failing to the next thing.

Even a failure is progress because you’re no longer heading in a direction that isn’t working.


I actually prefer not to use the word failure when talking about things. Calling something a failure is to acknowledge that state as its conclusion. I don’t ever like to think of that being its final state. I see failure as a catalyst that enables success.

If something is intermittently a “failure,” it’s merely a success-in-progress.

We don’t call it anything until it’s a success.

If something is a failure, that means you’ve put a label on it. You’ve called it done. You’ve said that is the conclusion. Failure says “I’m done and I’m willing to call it quits.” True failure is one of two things:

  • Never starting at all.
  • Choosing to wrap your identity in the results of something you did.

You can’t change what you can’t change, you can’t control what you can’t control. But you can always control your response to the results of something. Your response is what defines failure. Not someone else. Not someone else calling what you did a failure.

It’s only a failure if you call it that yourself.

Remember, you are not the results of something you do.