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Oct 03 2013

Why You Shouldn’t Embrace Failure

If you’ve gotten a lot of business advice, you’ve probably been told that you shouldn’t fear failure.

And you shouldn’t. That’s good advice. Fear can paralyze us, and it can cloud our judgment.

But many take these words of wisdom too far.

“Embrace failure,” they say. “Fail fast, and fail hard.”

Aphorisms like that look really nice on motivational posters, but they do little to help you run a business. The problem with failure is that, at best, all it can teach you is what not to do. That can certainly help you avoid the exact same failure again, but it doesn’t move us toward success.

In business, success is measured by growth: users, customers, revenue. Growth isn’t measured by failures, and in my experience, the most valuable milestones are the small successes along the way that propel you forward. Little wins that, when scaled, grow your business.

I won’t pretend that I’ve never failed. At MojoTech, we’ve failed. Sometimes, spectacularly so. And yes, we learned what we could from those failures and haven’t made the same mistakes again.

But the insight we gained from failing is dwarfed by what we learned when we did just one thing right—building a single feature that users found irresistible, solving a complicated scaling problem, putting together a killer pitch deck. These can be replicated, and they move us toward our goals. These are the types of things that, as a business, we need to focus on to survive and grow.

Everyone will fail, and we should all dust ourselves off and learn what we can. But unlike what the failure culture would have us believe, we shouldn’t focus on our failures. We should focus on getting back to work capturing the next small victory.

Failure shouldn’t be a rallying cry, and it’s nothing to celebrate.

So when yet another LinkedIn influencer tells you to embrace failure, don’t. You just might reap what you sow.

—Nick Kishfy

Nick Kishfy