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Why I love failure (and why you should too)
by Nicole Zummach
on March 04, 2013
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Why I love failure (and why you should too)
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Why I love failure

I admit it. I’ve failed…a lot. I’ve made bad decisions. I’ve tried things that didn’t work out as planned. I’ve watched my efforts result in nothing. If you think I’m crazy to publicly relate this information to you, you’re not alone. A quick Google search of the word “success” yields twice the results (almost a billion) as does the term “failure”. And most of the top hits for failure are concerned with trying to avoid it at all cost. Clearly, we humans are not big fans of this F-word.


I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Failing at something is a big hit to the ego and that never feels good. Add the possible repercussions attached to that failure, and it's no wonder the word has a bad rap. We tend to avoid talking about our failures; we hide them or deny them outright. But what good does that do us?


Perhaps before I answer my own question we should take a look at failure’s overachieving cousin, success. Success feels great! We want to shout it from the rooftops. We want to wrap ourselves in it like a warm blanket and never leave. And that’s the big problem with success; once we’ve succeeded, it’s not always easy to know what comes next. In fact, some of us rest on past laurels for so long we stop trying altogether (Tom Cruise, I’m looking at you).


Success can also lead to unrealistic expectations from those around us, and even ourselves. People who succeed early can become paralyzed by the fear of failure, resulting in countless examples of “one-hit wonders,” people who wowed us early on and then couldn’t or wouldn’t follow up. (Will Psy ever top his über-hit "Gangnam Style"?)


As social entrepreneurs, we might as well get comfortable with failure since the failure rate for start-ups is anywhere from 30-95%, depending on how you define it. Yep, you read that last number correctly. And that’s data from Harvard Business School. So don’t fear failure, embrace it!



0 #4 Anna Smith 2013-03-25 12:28
Great exploration here - what is it about failure that's so ripe with cliché and proverb? (And what does that do to legitimacy and adoption?)

Excited to read your Failure Report. Right now I'm working with an org - FailForward - that has a lot of knowledge to share on that process. Check it out and/or get in touch!

0 #3 Tina Crouse 2013-03-13 10:59
Looking forward to the learnings in the report. I applaud the courage of the participants even before its out. THANK YOU!
+1 #2 Jonathan Lewis 2013-03-07 02:10
Could not agree more! In solidarity, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-lewis/are-social-entrepreneurs-_1_b_2646308.html
+1 #1 Howard Brodwin 2013-03-06 13:54
Great article Nicole! I totally agree.
There was a similar piece in an innovation newsletter last spring that really resonated with me - definitely worth checking out...

Failure is the Only Path to Innovation

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