Sitemap & RSS Feed Tags

Failure is not what you think it is

In some interviews, some people enjoy asking: what was your best failure in your career? I used to hate this question. Failure is just failure, something that should not arrive at any cost. After some readings, I’ve changed my mind.

Before, I was very afraid of failures. I hated them. As a consequence, I did my best to avoid them. I realised that failures might be more valuable than I thought at the beginning.

What I define here as a failure is a wrong road, a path you took and conducted you nowhere or to a bad solution.

First enlightenment: you will face failures

First of all, something simple but with large consequences: you will face failures. I’m not saying that you cannot avoid some of them. But for sure, you will face failures.

Second enlightenment: It’s not because you get once a failure that you could be able to avoid the same one next time

If failures could be a way of learning, learning takes time.

To explain that, I would like to share with you the content of my first reading. It’s a poem from Portia Nelson that is valuable in my opinion.


I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place

but, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

my eyes are open

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Third enlightenment: without post-mortem, failure is just unworthwhile failure

If you don’t realise you have failed and don’t try to understand why, failure has no chance to give you any insight. In this case, I still think failure is just unworthwhile failure.

John Lunney and Sue Lueder write an article entitled Postmortem Culture: Learning from Failure where they deal with this postmortem culture in their job.

The cost of failure is education. (Devin Carraway)

Fourth enlightenment: You will fail. Then, fail fast.

Don’t stay stick to sunk costs.

It’s not because you’ve spent XXXXXX euros on a solution that doesn’t work that you need to spend more money. Save your money and time for another solution.

Fifth enlightenment: Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot. Expect and accept failures.

Failures still make me feel uncomfortable. I feel stupid when I face one. But if I’m able to change my view about failures and myself, I can go higher.

John Sonmez says in his article entitled Don’t Be Afraid To Look Like An Idiot:

being afraid of looking like an idiot can really hold you back and prevent you from growing in your career and in your life

More than that, I think it can hold you back from a good solution to your problem.

Expect and accept failures. If you need to find a solution to a problem, the first one might not be the better one. And that’s pretty normal.


You can take some insights from failures if you’re not afraid of them and take time to understand them. In any case, you cannot avoid failures. Then, it’s better to expect and accept them. Keep making reasonable choices based on arguments, but don’t be surprised if your assumption reveals itself wrong.

Here is my opinion after some uplifting readings:

Thank you for reading. Feel free to contact me on Twitter if you want to discuss that.