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Failure doesn't exist. Feedback does.

Do you see how if we reframe Failure as Feedback it takes on a whole new meaning?

In the standard sense of the definition, I fail often.

Below I've written about some of my failures and you should watch the complementary video as well... :)

On Failure:

I don't know a single successful person who hasn't failed multiple times. Most likely hundreds of times.

A lot of people would consider my recent eBook launch a failure since, in the scheme of eBook launches, I didn't generate a crazy amount of revenue. I look at it as an incredible success.

Here's why:

1) I shipped. So what if the eBook wasn't perfect? It's good, people are enjoying it, and I got it out there. Success!

2) I raised money for a good cause. I sent $1,600 to Kiva. This is going to directly affect the lives of a bunch of third world entrepreneurs! (This comes after #1 because if not for #1 there wouldn't have been a #2.)

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3) I get a new kind of feedback on my work. Once someone spends money with you the relationship changes. It's a position I don't take lightly. My aim is to over deliver. Which is why I write so much here; for the sheer love of sharing ideas.

Let's look at other examples of Failure -> Feedback:

  • I hurt my arm a few weeks back while building a guitar so I got an ayurvedic oil massage that didn't end up helping (but did make for an "interesting" experience!). That was a failure. But I reframed it as feedback, found a better ayurvedic massage clinic, and was healed in 1 day. (Crazy, but true!)
  • When I couldn't get Internet and, as a result, couldn't get work done because of the ridiculous new bureaucracy here in India I felt it was a failure. I even wrote about it (whined about it is more like it) here. Sometimes I'm dense and it takes me a little extra time to take your advice and my own advice. :) Anyway, eventually, when I reframed the failure as feedback, I got my Internet and was able to produce a crazy amount of content in a short amount of time.
We don't learn from our failures.

We learn from the feedback we get from our failures.

Avoiding Failure Is Not The Goal

Let's be clear that avoiding failure is not the goal. More than that, a life without failure is boring.

And, of course, avoiding failure is impossible.

The goal is to achieve success or failure as soon as possible. If that means 10-20 hours in electronic stores trying to get a USB modem then so be it. :)

Sometimes we get too caught up in our lives to allow ourselves to step back and analyze what's going on. Now that I've put my thoughts on the relationship of failure and feedback down into words I'll have a much easier time dealing with failure in the future.

Now that you've read this article, I hope you'll have an easier time with your failures as well. :)

I'm interested: how do you deal with your failures? Do you beat yourself up over them? Do you get depressed? Do you use them as learning experiences? What steps do you take?

Whoa, that's a lot of questions, but I'm fascinated with failure, feedback, and success. Post in the comments or, if you'd like some level of anonymity, e-mail me: KarolGajda AT Gmail.com. More important than anything, be honest with yourself when answering the questions.

---------- EDIT (March 11, 2010): This is weird/cool. Penelope Trunk and Dragos Roua both wrote about failure recently.