Fail Your Way to Success

Fail Your Way to Success

It’s exciting to learn from entrepreneurs and financial wizards who’ve made it big — they make it sound so easy!

But when you try to replicate someone else’s success, you are likely to be disappointed from time to time.

However, if you really pay attention to what most of these successful people are saying, they laid a groundwork of failures before achieving their ultimate successes.

If we listen carefully to these people, we end up learning that their failures along the way gave them insight, wisdom and experience that served them later on. It seems like a contrarian idea, but in this quirky, unpredictable world we really do fail our way to success.

In his insightful and semiautobiographical novel How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams writes that “if you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea, it has extraordinary power.”

Forget Goals

Scott Adams may be best known for the relatable Dilbert cartoon, but his list of successes and failures is much longer than that and includes everything from banking, finance and restaurants to writing books.

He makes the case that failure is an important part of success and that a wise person extracts the value out of that failure. Failures along the way do not mean a doomed career. In fact, failure may actually be just what you need to hit your professional stride…

Adams is open about his failures along the way:

This is a story of one person’s unlikely success within the context of scores of embarrassing failures. Was my eventual success primarily a result of talent, luck, hard work or an accidental just-right balance of each? All I know for sure is that I pursued a conscious strategy of managing my opportunities in a way that would make it easier for luck to find me.

One such strategy that Adams learned as he failed along the way to success was to look beyond goals.

Sure, goals are great, and they help us to remain oriented.

But goals are only going to mean something if they are undergirded by carefully thought-out systems. Your systems are the means by which you acquire skills along the way to add to your skillset.

Our goals may or may not ever be achieved, and they often change as we go through life. Our systems, however, serve us for the rest of our lives and lead us to a success we may not have envisioned.

Think of all opportunities to learn as complementary skills that will add to your probability of success.

Say for example you are in a job where you have to learn certain government regulations, food safety or website design.

Maybe none of these skills relates to your goal and you are in a job you don’t even want to be in. However, you are being presented the opportunity now and should learn what you can because it may actually open the door to a better opportunity for you.

Adams explains this succinctly:

If you combine several ‘good enough’ skills, it can make you surprisingly valuable. In my case, I’m not a world-class artist or writer. I’m a mediocre businessman, and I’m often not the funniest person in the room. But the combination of those ‘good enough’ skills was sufficient to create Dilbert.

Every skill you acquire along the way doubles your chances of success.

Stay Positive

When you start to systematically milk each failure along the way for all the skills and wisdom it will teach you, you begin to view your career path in a different way. In fact, you develop a more positive mindset that allows you to be open to these opportunities and enjoy the process so much more.

He does not gloss over the idea of positivity or toss the word into his advice glibly. As with everything else he has learned, he became systematic about positivity and used it to leverage circumstances to his advantage.

“Positivity is far more than a mental preference,” he writes, “It changes your brain, literally, and it changes the people around you. It’s the nearest thing we have to magic.”

By picturing the future, whether looking long term or short term, as just a little bit brighter, you hack your own brain chemistry in such a way that you are happier and more energetic.

Passion is another subject Adams explores in terms of its relation to success. He maintains that people tend to put the cart before the horse on this one.

It is easy to believe that passion will drive your success, but the truth is that it is success that actually fuels your passion. If you start only with passion, you will likely burn out and become disillusioned and frustrated.

Instead, he suggests, start out with a willingness to work hard and systematically learn and gain wisdom from your experience. When you are successful, passion will most certainly follow!

“Success is entirely accessible, even if you happen to be a huge screw-up 95% of the time,” Adams assures us. He may just be on to something here!

With purpose,

Dr. Patrick Gentempo

Patrick Gentempo