How to Fail Well

I am one of those people who is afraid of failure. I am therefore one of those people how has moved slower than I could have, had I not been afraid. So my journey to what many believe is a riskier lifestyle choice (owning my own business) reflects that reality.

When I think about all of the “self helpy” sayings that address failing like “failing up” or “failing forward,” I am the kind of person that also likes the self protection phrase, “mitigate risk.” Catastrophic failure is different than failing at a caclulated risk. I do suggest reading “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hanson. In it they speak about the topic of taking risks to grow, but not ones that are so large that failure in one area could be something that resembles complete failure, hitting zero.

So how do you fail well?

Mitigate risk: When possilbe treat your risk portfolio like the high risk reward portion of your stock porfolio. Make it small enough that losing it all will not wipe you out, and when you hit your target, take your capital off the table and a portion of the gain. Don’t get greedy; let success strengthen your base, but keep your risk profile balanced.

Keep Learning: Learn from your mistakes, and learn from others’ mistakes. Why would the same risk scenario turn out differently than it has before, because you want it to? Wrap yourself in great advice and insight and grow in your understanding and expertise.

Know when to quit: If you know before you start when you will quit, then you know when not to. Hanging on just in case is like holding a stock to zero, and quiting early because it is harder than you thought is likely too early. The key is determining your break point before things get emotional. If you have thought your quit point through rationally with advice in advance, you can trust it when you want to quit too early or are tempted to hold on too long.

If you follow these principles at the high end, taking a risk won’t wipe you out, and at the very least you will learn something to help you have a greater liklihood for success in the future.