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( reading time: 5 min 15 sec )

Failure is frustrating, and we know it is going to happen. We make a mistake when we seek to fail less as our response to failure.

The successful, more successful people in life are those who learned to fail forward. Failure can be a signal to stop, pivot, or learn. We will look at each of these and how we define success and failure.

Failure is not who we are or are not. A failure is an event that we should master. That pursuit starts with understanding what our definition of success is built on.


Food, water, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other items may be classified as essential per individual. These ingredients are the foundation of success. Without these things, we cannot grow. Without these things, we cannot continue or thrive.

Success requires more than the essentials to thrive. One of the things it needs is a specific definition of what we are striving to do, be, or create. Suppose something favorable happens by chance with no defined target. In that case, that is fortunate, but it is not true success.

Success always waits at the end of a quest. The path may be clear, or it may be a classic quest in which we know the goal but don’t know all the challenges we will have to overcome to reach our aspirations. We may not even know for sure if we will be successful. What we must believe is that our goal is possible. That is essential to engaging ourselves mentally and physically and investing our resources in the tasks ahead.

Real Success

We pursue different types of success. Some of our success targets in life are based on imaginary values. If someone is good at board games, card games, or sports, they have provided value. The value they provided is about companionship, engagement, and socially agreed recreation.

Our goal is not to take away the value of these achievements. The goal is to recognize that everyday achievements don’t hold the same awe as an Olympic athlete winning a gold medal. As a culture, we tend to give excess honor to people who have recreational achievements because they are extraordinary achievements that few could match.

While those achievements are real in one aspect, in another, those who cannot compete struggle to realize the value of the things they do. Most of us work to provide services and products that keep the essentials all the rest of success is built on. These hidden heroes are also walking quietly among us.

If it were not for the success of the less impressive who faithfully toil at making things we need available, there would be no Olympics, board games, or movies. Some key heroes rise within these groups to improve our health care, provide better transportation, or grow better food from gardens to farms. These heroes rarely get the fame given to movie actors, sports athletes, or extraordinary console gamers.

Two Sides of Failure

One side of failure is more common than the other. The more common side is falling short of hopes and expectations. Sometimes, falling short means trying harder or committing more resources, or someone or something blocks us from achieving what should have been possible.

This side of failure comes with a mixture of emotions. This failure questions whether we will reach our goals in a reasonable amount of time, if ever. It questions the rising cost in a way that may cause us to shift from seeing our effort as an investment to seeing it as gambling and a waste. There is a time when this is the right choice. Quitting is only one of the possible choices.

Many have defined doing the same thing and expecting different results as insanity. One way to know we are gambling is when failure is followed by the insanity plan, where we just try it again with no changes. It is better to ask these questions.

  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What one thing will change?

This pattern is a common approach used by those who have learned to master failure in the journey.

Mastering Failure in the Journey

While we can change more than one thing after a failure, if we choose to try again and change too many things, we will need to understand what difference something made. Resources, time, mental energy, and culture don’t just naturally renew themselves until we succeed in pursuing goals. The routine above is part of a proven approach to keeping the individuals and the team engaged with effective clarity to turn failure into learning, and pivots when quitting would be the wrong choice.

Jim Collins talks about firing bullets before firing cannon balls. Steve Blank and Bob Dorf also talk about conserving resources until we find something successful and then profiting from it by investing our more significant investments in what we know works. The point is that our failure will not be as frustrating if we fail small instead of big. Go big or go home is excellent for sports, but in business, there are many seasons when it is the fast track to going home.

There are three profound options we can use as a response to failure. We exclude doing the same thing and expecting different results.

  • Learn and adjust, and find another path to the goal.
  • Pivot, change the goal.
  • Quit because the learn and pivot options are not viable.

Success Is More than Success

If you are still with me, that is good. Over on Budgeting Today, there are a few articles worth reading.

  • YeM, Me, and ToM ( This speaks about success in the flow of our lives from yesterday to today and into tomorrow.
  • Avoiding Confusing More with Success( This refers to when more is a distraction from another critical value.

Success is more than winning a game, being the best player, or making more money. When we find success, it should be defined by how it impacts our lives and the lives of others. True success should be twice as valuable based on its impact in the real world as in recreation and entertainment.

The Path to Real Success: Mastering Failure in the Journey

What are some of the goals of real success in life? These run from financial freedom, often defined as retirement, to raising children skilled at providing for their needs and engaging in activities that bring meaning to their journey. Consider the essentials and tangible pursuits as more valuable than society recognizes.

Society is not evil because we are distracted by good stories. However, putting the good stories ahead of reality can negatively impact the culture. We will pay less attention to the routine, which is normal. The challenge comes when we shift our values in ways that affect those who do the more valuable things.

Real success doesn’t exclude recreation or entertainment; it recognizes that we are easily distracted by bonus activities. It takes intentional focus and planning to achieve the right results in the core areas of life and culture. This is why many of us procrastinate on retirement planning, studying for a test, paying taxes, painting the house, and more.

When we wait to fail, we wait to learn. When we wait to fail, we don’t see the pivot. When we don’t think about failure as part of our way to answer and achieve, we will have fewer answers and fewer achievements. When we fail without learning, we don’t get good at failure and see failure as a way to define ourselves instead of an event that will guide us into a brighter future.

Although failure should sometimes be avoided, every quest is best conquered by learning to master failure. Fail small, learn, or pivot. When we master failure, we will look for failure to guide us on our journey. Understanding failure will bring us greater success.