Why failure is necessary on the road to success…

Growth mindset graph

Project mood chart


In Chip and Dan Heath’s brilliant book “Switch“, they talk about the necessity for businesses to adopt a growth mindset and that failure is part of that mindset.

In the business world, we implicitly reject the growth mindset. Bussiness people think in terms of two stages: You plan, and then you execute. There’s no ‘learning stage’ or ‘practice stage’ in the middle. From the business perspective, practice looks like poor execution. Results are the thing: We don’t care how ya do it, just get it done!” – They say, explaining that everything in the middle can look like a failure.

They go on to describe a ‘project mood chart‘ that plots how and why changes in emotion within a team happen at different stages in a project. Usually it starts with hope and enthusiasm, ideas are flowing freely and abundantly, but in order to integrate all of these ideas some moments of insight are required. And insight doesn’t always happen when you want it to. Depression can set in and the project starts to feel like a failure. But with persistence, improvements are made, the necessary tweaking happens and eventually the solution becomes more and more visible.

They state that by telling a team to ‘expect‘ this process it doesn’t come across as negative but rather as optimistic, as now – failure is described as just a part of the overall journey to a successful outcome.

They go on to say:

That’s the paradox of the growth mindset. Although it seems to draw our attention to failure, and in fact encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic. We will struggle, we will fail, we will be knocked down – but throughout, we’ll get better, and we’ll succeed in the end.

Falling down as you travel down the path is an opportunity to learn where the pot-holes are, they are not a signal that you are failing to walk down the path.

This doesn’t only apply to businesses, but rather to ALL aspects of life. We have to dig deep to get through the depressing down times when we’re in need of insight, but trust that if we just keep going it will reveal itself.

If you’re in business at any level read Switch asap.





Filed under Confidence, Goals, Life changing, Self help, Self Improvement, Success

8 responses to “Why failure is necessary on the road to success…

  1. Hi Stu… I think it’s the word itself that could be changed, maybe using a synonym because it has always meant/signaled/felt like THE END… I’m thinking that if we used, I don’t know, maybe CHALLENGE… I have found that not everyone understands or even detects the subtleties and shades a word can have, people take it as is… and to them FAIL will be FAIL… when to us FAIL is a chance to learn, an obstacle, a challenge to overcome and grow from… great post my friend 🙂 Alexandra

    • Thanks Alexandra, on one level I agree with you and we can certainly do with using different language to create more positive states of mind – especially with our kids. On the other hand, the word only has negative associations ‘because’ of the way we have viewed it and experienced it in the past. We have to learn that ‘failure’ is ok. Failure is a stepping stone. Failure is finding a way NOT to do something. Rather than avoid the word we should learn to embrace it for what it is – just a word, that denotes a place on the road. Love having you here my friend. 🙂

      • Cool that you mention children, I am doing a special effort in helping them embrace failure, I make it a point to show them there is an AFTER to that incident, it is as you say, a stepping stone, not as flat as the others but still part of the path… I’ve had more trouble with teens, with them I’ve had to soften the blow by using synonyms and examples… so funny to see how the older they are the more difficult it is to show them the other side of the story… so very nice to be here 🙂 thanks and big hug to you

    • Yeah, the older we get the more ingrained the programming. Strategies and tactics to be able to manipulate our own mindset become useful when trying to positively influence ourselves and others. 🙂

  2. I’m not clear: When using the word ‘they’ in the second paragraph and beyond, are you referencing the book authors or the Business people? Thanks!

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