Why You Should Fail Fast, Learn Faster

In my last couple of years of starting and setting up a business, I have learned a somewhat expected but not so obvious key to success: failing fast, and learning faster.

If you have this as a formula for success in your head, nothing or no one will stop you from achieving what you want – including you and your own limiting beliefs.

Failing is inevitable. May it be in a new venture or in life. So the faster we face it, faster it gets out of our way, and makes the road for the new to come in.

Failing is also indicative of some characteristics that we need in order to reach our goals:

1. You are taking actions.

A LOT of progress can be made if we take action. We have all these thoughts, ideas and options in our heads. But quite often, we do not take action to check which of those will lead us to success. Instead we try to figure out the best option by contemplating over it.

But there comes a point when no amount of contemplation is going to yield the clarity that you seek. Because you simply can not predict all the hidden possibilities one action can unravel.

All you can do is to create the scenario, simulate the experience, and then actually see how it unfolds. If the results don’t work for you, you accept that it wasn’t the best option, and move on.

But I promise you that in the process you will uncover so many hidden consequences of that choice, which you couldn’t possibly anticipate just by thinking about it.

Does that mean that you don’t analyze or carefully weigh all your options before making a decision?

Absolutely not!

You must do that. However, don’t let the analysis paralysis kick in. Take an action before that. You may fail but that’s your only way to get a shot at succeeding.

2. You are overcoming limiting beliefs.

Lack of action is sometimes plain laziness. But if you love a project and still something is stopping you from taking action towards it, there are usually some underlying issues. The most prominent ones I have seen in myself and in my clients are these: Fear of failure, embarrassment or shame, not owning your true power, not accepting your intuition, a mismatched feeling of what you ae supposed to do as per common wisdom vs. what YOU feel or think you should do next, wondering what others will say, fear of taking criticism.

No matter what your fears are, they are holding you back.

But if you take action and fail, you know that you have at least dealt with some of these issues. You are giving your goals more power than your inhibitions. In short, you are on your merry way to progress and achieving your desires.

Just learn from experiences, and you will keep moving closer to success.

3. You are open minded and objective about your ideas.

Failing fast, and learning faster comes when you are not emotionally attached to many of your ideas.

If you were, you keep weighing that idea more than the other ones you have generated. And even though you know somewhere that the only way you can find an answer is just by trying it out, you tend not to do so.

What if it turns out to be the wrong way? Then you start taking that failure personally. You start questioning your decision making, or ability to parse information.

You are also less open to others guides or coaches’ advice.

You are afraid of proving yourself wrong.

You are less objective about assessing the other options that exists, and the new options that may come up or be suggested by a creative coach or a guide.

So in a nutshell, all this emotional attachment to one idea is stops you from taking an action and in turn finding out that you may be wrong on this one.

On the other hand, if you are failing, you know you are open to experimenting. You are testing many ideas objectively and giving them a chance that they may be right. Inadvertently, you will discover some new options in the process that present themselves as slight modifications from the original plan, but can prove to be better than all the other plans you initially came up with.

Such experimentation without the attachment to a particular plan, and openness to testing what may come up is an inevitable process in the path to success. Get into that attitude as quickly as you can.

4. You are using the process of elimination.

If you are failing and learning as you go, you are using the process of elimination. You are getting rid of what doesn’t work. And building up on the pieces that are proven to work.

Every time you do this, you move one step closer to success.

In the words of Thomas Edison,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

At first, I thought this method of trial and error is crude. I was conceited enough to say, “I am better than that.” (Read it as “I am a better thinker than that”.)

Do you see the problem in my mentality? It assumes that you can “think” about everything and get to a solid resolution. And as we saw in point number 1, that’s not only impossible but also detrimental to our progress.

There comes a point when the circumstances are just ripe for that one plan to click. But the way you get to those circumstances is by eliminating what doesn’t belong there.

We all hope to quickly stumble upon the ways that work. But successful people aren’t afraid of knowing what doesn’t work. That’s what makes their success sustainable and not a fluke.

5. You are iterating fast.

In order to fail fast you have to keep reiterating faster.

In software development, there are cycles of product updates that a team goes through. Those are called iterations.

It isn’t expected that you will get a product to exhibit all the fancy behavior that you dream of, in one go. Instead you release a minimum viable product that performs some fundamental tasks, and then continue working on enhancing the product’s features.

It takes iterations after iterations of building up on previous progress. Some of those versions along the way are released as product updates. That’s why you see version 1.1, 2.0 or 5.3.

What we don’t see are all the other versions that were there in between and the countless iterations that the team went through.

The same concept can be (and in my opinion, should be) applied to our career, business or life. You cannot expect to just jump from point A to your dream goal, point Z. You have to first go to point B, learn something in the process, then go to point C, and so on.

As we continue this process, we become faster at moving from a point to point, we become smarter at detecting the roadblocks, and we get better at analyzing our next steps that will keep us on our intended route.

If we don’t iterate, the challenges feel new every time. There seem to be no recurring patterns that we already know how to tackle. And that itself is so intimidating, that we can easily give up.

If you are failing fast you know you are failing at different iterations. That only means that you are one version closer to the next product update.

This approach of iterative progress allows you to fail because you know not every version needs to be shared with public. You know that every version teaches you something. And you also know that another product update is on its way.

That attitude is conducive for success.

In conclusion:

Some of my biggest wins in the last (and first) two years of business have come from failures. Had it not been for failures, I wouldn’t have learned what not to do. I wouldn’t have figured out what should be done.

Yes, failures are hard to take. But they are your friends. They are gateways to learning, and learning is the path to success.

So allow yourself to fail. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you do. Just learn from it, and apply your learning to your next action.

As people say in the business world,  “Fail fast and learn faster.”

What do you think:

After reading this, do you see failures in a different light? In hindsight, are there any failures that taught you something you are grateful to know now? I would love to hear your voice in the comments. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


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