"Failing Forward": How to Turn Mistakes Into Success

Fail fast and fail often. If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough. 

Entrepreneurs hear this ALL the time. It sounds like good advice, and we're all familiar with the stories of famous innovators overcoming setbacks to achieve greatness. Everyone from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs has an inspirational anecdote where failure was an essential ingredient of innovation. 

But the how is usually pretty fuzzy. What practical steps can you take to turn failure around?  

How to Turn Mistakes Into Success: 

1. Seek out criticism early and often. Instead of dreading negative feedback, go looking for it! Send early prototypes or mockups to a select group of customers, or run your new idea past a few meticulous colleagues. Failure is much more costly if you wait until after you've spent all your time and resources. 

2. Get an attitude adjustment. According to author John C. Maxwell's bestseller Failing Forward, the difference between those who achieve their business goals and those who don't all comes down to how they react to and perceive failure: the achievers see it as a process, not an event. It's not a reflection of them personally or the death-knell of their project — it's an opportunity to make future efforts even more successful. 

3. Set realistic goals. Don't set yourself up for failure by establishing unattainable standards. By making goals practical and measurable, you can incorporate setbacks and new iterations into your process so they don't discourage you, but instead fuel your growth. 

4. Reflect on what went wrong, and then move on. Don't obsess over failure! It will only eat away at your confidence and sabotage your future efforts. Take a little time to reflect and learn, and then get right back to work.

5. Focus on the silver lining. Failure does have benefits: customer feedback can take you in an entirely new and improved direction, or make you aware of a lucrative market you didn't even know existed. Plus, you now know something about your customers that you didn't before — and something your competitors may not be aware of either. That's a valuable advantage! 

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Sources: Forbes.com, Mindy Crary - Forbes.com 

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