Make Your Failures a School Not A Graveyard

I’m constantly intrigued by small business, especially the idea that the largest most profitable big organizations start with thoughts, ideas and first steps. These are the same things that small companies begin with. However, we sometimes count ourselves out because of size. But business of any size is risk, and your ability to manage it determines the quality of your company.


Robert Frank, Wealth Reporter for the Wall Street Journal says:

“Part of the risk taking personality is the ability to overcome failure. Where most of us would go home and cry, Guy [Laliberte, Founder of Cirque du Soleil] just shakes it off. That’s one of the things that makes billionaires successful — their reaction to failure.”

Failure, like competition, is a part of the process, and how you deal with it is a choice.  What happens when your dream doesn’t turn into what you expected? You get an opportunity to see what you’re made of. 

You Can Walk Away And Never Try Again 

Or you can make adjustments and learn from the failure. There is no telling what you can become when you push through. But failure becomes absolute when you quit. It’s merely training, however, when you regroup, redesign, reinvent.

What did Og Mandino say in the Greatest Salesman in the World?

“Failure will never overtake you, if your determination to succeed is strong enough.”

Well, Is It? 

Are you in the right business and is your determination strong enough? No one can answer those questions for you. But once you know, it becomes easier (which is not the same thing as easy) to pay the price it takes to create something that really works, that really matters to your audience and to market it in a way that truly connects.

Youngme Moon, professor at the Harvard Business School and author of Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, highlights three types of brands that market themselves in counter intuitive ways. She refers to them as the reverse brands, breakaway brands and hostile brands.

Reverse Brands Change The Way We Do Things

They tend to go in the opposite direction and it works. Youngme refers to Google as an example. In stark contrasts to AOL at the time and Yahoo today, instead of the busy, crowded search engine front pages, Google went simple, minimalistic. They focused on one core thing — the search.

What’s the one core thing that you can focus on?

Breakaway Brands Function Outside Of Their Category

Cirque du Soliel, for example, founded by Guy Laliberte, has redefined our concept of the circus. His modern version is filled with art in the form of dance, music and gymnastics and feels more like theatre than our old school concepts of the circus. And because of this difference Cirque du Soliel stands out.

What can you focus on that — you’re passionate about and — makes you different from the rest?

Hostile Brands Are Statement Brands

“. . .identity markers, and intuitively, we know it,” Youngme says. Her examples include the Mini Cooper, Red Bull and Birkenstocks. At first glance one is too small — should a car really be that tiny? Another tastes like crap according to some Red Bull naysayers. And Birkenstock’s just look awful. But for hostile brands, they market by turning things on it’s head. They embrace the fight and the difference:

  1. small is the new big when it comes to the mini cooper,
  2. Red Bull is an acquired taste — “a way of life,” and
  3. Birkenstocks is “a simple idea that has made feet happy for over two hundred years.”

But How Do You Get There? 

I think, the very natural and organic process of building something that you’re passionate about is the key. Your passion and commitment will place you in a position to see things that others have not. And to group things that others would not. And to fight for things that others do not.

Among other things, Guy Laliberte brought theatrical excellence to the circus, and it’s amazing and good for business. But I am sure he had countless chances to quit, but didn’t.

Make your failures and weaknesses a school, not a graveyard for your dreams. 

School Photo via Shutterstock


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

3 Reactions
  1. A great title and great advice. If you can’t learn from your failures, you won’t have a long career.

  2. Good article. But “failure” shouldn’t be in the entrepreneurial dictionary. Let’s say “failure” is really just “mistakes”.

  3. This article contains great insight and encouragement to press through the down times.