The Art of Failure

November 21, 2022

In the spirit of financial literacy month, I think it’s important we talk about failure.

I want to normalize failure.

We learn from failure. Failure is the only consequence that brings meaningful and lasting change.

What is failure?

Failure is when we don’t achieve a goal that we’d set out to achieve. It is the lack of success or the inability to meet an expectation.

Failure isn’t something we talk about very openly or very regularly in business, but I want to let you in on a little known fact. Every single business fails. Let me repeat this: every single business fails.

No matter what decisions you make in your business, there are financial consequences. These consequences vary… they can include anything from profit and positive operating cash flow to loss and unsustainable debt loads. Consequences can range in significance and impact and can have positive or negative results to profitability and cash flow.

What I often see is that sustainable positive financial consequences don’t happen on their own. What they need as a catalyst is failure.

Failure isn’t fun. It doesn’t feel good when it’s happening; ego finds its way in to interfere with the learning opportunities. Failure can feel like shame, embarrassment, anger, or avoidance. We do every thing we can to avoid failure. As a Type A recovering perfectionist, I am speaking from experience!

If we can let go of ego and truly understand that failure is part of our journey, then maybe we can learn from it. One thing I’ve learned really well over the past few years is that we are going to make mistakes as a team and that I am going to make mistakes as a business leader, and all of this is expected and is ok. In fact, it’s great.

Without the mistakes, we miss learning opportunities. Without failure, we don’t get to redesign our thinking, our processes, or our systems. As entrepreneurs, we know that this continuous improvement is critical to our success. Improvement only comes when we don’t get it completely right the first time.

I encourage us to celebrate failure as much as we celebrate success. Let’s change the narrative and share our learning often and openly. Failure leads to learning and learning leads to success. Financial consequences lead to better decision making, propelling us to financial success.

What are your financial failures that have lead to a financial win?

Alicia Fowler