Archives for posts with tag: failure


Watching Tiger Woods during a a major golf tournament is a great way of learning how to deal with failure. He has two way:

There’s the immature Tiger Woods: He curses, he slams the clubs into the ground, he stares down the gallery and their smart phones. That’s petty Tiger Woods.

And, there’s the mature Tiger Woods: He shakes his head slightly when the ball ends up in the rough, he takes his lumps, he ends a disastrous round, shakes hands and moves on to the driving range to correct whatever ailed him during the day.

Whenever immature Tiger Woods shows up, you know it’s not going to end well. He’s connected to emotions around failure, emotions all of us are trying to avoid, and the shame of personal failure leads him to emotional outbreaks.

The mature Tiger Woods understands that each round is a new opportunity: figuring out what didn’t work and redefine what his best work will be in the future. Immediately getting back to work.

Slamming your clubs into the ground might be sexy for the SportsCenter crowd. It won’t earn you a trophy.


Or: How to be successful in school

Or: How to be successful at work

It only requires two steps:

#1: Open your mind. Learn. Be curious. Imagine the unimaginable. Consider billions of options. Then consider gazillions more.

#2: Close the door, close your mind, close the shutters. Hunker down. Relentlessly cut, delete and fill the trash can. Make a decision. Push the work out.

Most people mix and mash both steps, just to fail. During the first step, you need to open your mind as wide as as you can. Most people are not open enough, limit themselves. During the second step, you need to shut it down immediately. Your “Open” sign has to be flipped to a “Closed” sign. No more options, no more new technologies, no additions, no hesitations.

It sounds easy.

And it is. As long as you follow the steps diligently.


Failure is inevitable if we are succeed in life. Unfortunately, many people do not know how to overcome failure, and they are stopped by it when they encounter one. The ability to overcome failure is one big difference between successful and mediocre people. After all, we should pass failure on the way to success, so it is the ability to pass it that makes the difference between those who eventually reach success and those who don’t.

You can learn a lot about failure and success when you go to the playground. My daughter is obsesses with monkey bars. She can hang on them for a long time and move from the first to the second bar. Then she jumps off and starts all over again. She spends a lot of time in school breaks on monkey bars and begs me to take her to the park on weekends.

And it shows.


She counts up to 25 blisters on both hands. And it doesn’t hold her back. She continues to fail, followed by more failures and thousands of other failures. It took her a few weeks to move from the first to the second bar. She’s been stuck in this stage for the longest time. But every time we’re heading to the park, she proclaims: “Today I’m going to do all the monkey bars.” That optimism carries her through an hour of working the monkey bars. When she wakes up next morning, she starts out with a resounding: “Today I’m going to do all the monkey bars.”

This is the attitude we all need.

Life is about failing. You will fail more than succeed. And life is not a lottery. It’s hard, filled with work and some shiny moments. Even successful companies had to deal with massive failures on their way to success. Just read these examples.

The most important thing is to keep your confidence despite the failure. Many people who achieve great undertakings have no special trait or talent. They are just ordinary people with extraordinary attitude. We should strive to be one of them.

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You get the nervous twitch. Or you become lethargic out of boredom.

A few years ago, the majority of strategies were outdated. They still lived in the post-industrial age, not the knowledge management age. Companies held on too long to their strategies because at one point they succeeded. (We see this playing out in Washington D.C. each day: “You just cut taxes and the unicorns will appear.” “Add more money/stimulus to the system and the unicorns will multiply.”)

The majority of companies had a massive strategy jolt in the last few years and the lethargy problem almost disappeared. Just to be replaced by the nervous twitch.

Companies are starting to shift major strategies a few times a year.

Complacency in board rooms has been replaced with a frantic, ADD-like obsession to pivot at any opportunity. It makes my head spin and some brands have turned into unrecognizable product disasters.

What’s the most admired and valuable company in the world right now?

Apple. They haven’t changed their strategy in a long time: Great design and integrated software/hardware.

Microsoft. You can say what you want about them, they have stuck to their long-term strategies. And continue to succeed.

Compare that to AOL.

Nobody says you should stick with bad strategies (And, there are many bad strategies out there.) but you need to stick longer with a strategy than you currently do.

The Seinfeld strategy

The show premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles in July 1989. After it aired, NBC didn’t want to pick it up and even offered it to Fox, which declined to pick it up. The head of late night and special events for NBC, Rick Ludwin, diverted money from his budget and the next four episodes were filmed. They got lucky: These episodes followed Cheers and the show was finally picked up. NBC wanted to air Seinfeld Saturdays at 10.30 pm and ended up Wednesdays at 9:30pm.

If it wasn’t for Rick Ludwin, Jerry Seinfeld might be still be touring through questionable towns and comedy stores. And we would have missed out on hours of intelligent entertainment.

We get bored too easily.

That’s especially true for marketers. We love to change branding and communications strategy. A new season, a new campaign. A new tool, a new toy.

Instead of radical change, strategies need to be fluid and flexible, while always sticking to the same main goals and guiding principles.

Don’e be too trigger happy. You might just miss out on the Seinfeld of your career.


There’s a lot of chatter in the Social Web about failing fast and often, getting comfortable with failure since it’s part of the innovation process or how failure breeds success. One of the few voices opposing this view is Alex Bogusky, who rather celebrates success and forgets about failures.

When you’re encouraged to fail constantly because success will come at one point, you’re like a gambler in Vegas placing small bets on Roulette tables. $10 here, $10 here. The biggest payout you’ll be able to collect is $350. Not bad. Not life-changing. Just an incremental change in the right direction. The path to mediocrity is paved with small successes and small failures.

To be a real change agent, to dramatically transform anything, you have to give yourself the right to be wrong. Dead wrong. De Lorean wrong. What’s so bad about being wrong? If you’re never wrong, it indicates you’re not growing.

When I switched agencies a while back, I took all my knowledge and digital arrogance, and recommended a specific buy/campaign/tactic. When the numbers came back, I was devastated. Not one metric worked out. Not one. My initial instinct was to look at the creative, the testing, tried to cite best practices, what competitors are doing – just find a way to qualify it as a success through other objectives. But I was so wrong with my recommendation that I just had to admit to it: I was wrong. Dead wrong. I wasted your money. The client signed the check. And we continued to work together.

Having the freedom to be wrong is a big relief and gives you intellectual freedom. On the other hand, failures are often transformed into fake successes by focusing on other metrics/objectives: “We didn’t generate any leads but user engagement was high.” Trying to slowly transform the failure into a Phyrric victory.

Stop it.

Don’t let that human right to be wrong become extinct by replacing it with acceptable, so-so or good enough. Create a culture where being wrong is part of the human experience.┬áBeing wrong eventually leads to being right. And it’s a much more interesting journey than the murky path of small failures.