How to Fail Forward


When you encounter a setback in life, how do you react?

Do you complain about it or succumb to frustration and anger and allow it to derail your progress?

Do you see it as a sign from the universe to quit or use it as an excuse to give up on your goals?

Or do you treat it like the valuable learning opportunity it is?

Today I’d like to teach you how to “fail forward” in life and transform every failure you experience into a powerful launchpad that catapults you even closer to your dreams.

The Truth About Failure

See, this is the thing about failures.

All our lives, we’ve been told that they’re bad and something to avoid or be ashamed of.

The idea of failure has been built up to be so catastrophically terrible that most people choose not to take any risks at all, rather than risk even a small chance of failure.

And that is a huge problem — because if you don’t take risks, you can’t grow as a person.

You see, growth only happens when you leave your comfort zone. It requires you to venture into unknown territory and try something different. That’s how we learn the new skills and knowledge we need to become the kind of person who is capable of taking our lives to the next level.

Growth requires risk. And if you’re so scared of failure that you refuse to take risks, then you’ll always remain right where you are.

Failure Is Essential to Succeeding

This is the difference between highly successful people and those who never achieve their dreams.

Successful people realize that failure is an important part of the learning process. They know that failure is just a way we learn by trial and error. Not only do we need to stop being so afraid of failure but we also need to be willing to fail — even eager to fail.

I call this kind of instructive failure “failing forward.”

Simply get started, make mistakes, listen to the feedback, correct, and keep moving forward toward the goal. Every experience will yield more useful information that you can apply the next time.

That’s why I always encourage my students to view failure as a learning opportunity.

CS Lewis once said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

They point you in the direction you need to go next if you want to reach your ultimate destination.

So please don’t let fear of failure stop you from taking the risks you need to take to achieve your goals. It’s only by taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from your failures that you will ever reach any real measure of success.

How to Fail Forward

To make it easier for you, here are some tips on how to fail forward by learning from your setbacks and transforming your failures into powerful lessons that actually accelerate your progress toward your goals.

Every time you experience a setback or failure, I want you to ask yourself the following questions…

  • First off, ask yourself, “How did this happen?”
  • What was the outcome you wanted — and what prevented you from achieving that outcome?
  • What unexpected complications arose? In what ways were you unprepared to deal with them? How can you prepare for them next time?
  • What role did YOU play in creating the setback? What skills or knowledge do you need to acquire to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
  • Who can you ask to help you acquire those skills and knowledge? Who can you ask for feedback on how to do better next time? Who can you ask to support you in your efforts? Do you need to add anyone to your team in order to get better results?
  • What went RIGHT during the experience? What did you do right? Which of your efforts produced good results and how can you replicate those efforts or expand on them to get even better results next time?

Once you’ve answered these questions to your satisfaction, your next step is to write down everything you learned from the experience and come up with a plan for what you are going to do to get better results next time.

Above all, remember that failure is not a dead end. It’s merely a detour that may take a bit longer to get you where you want to go but will equip you with the tools and resources you need to reach your destination.

It may feel like a delay, but really it’s a necessary pitstop that will empower you to get much better results in the future.

In fact, the lessons you learn from your failures might actually end up accelerating your progress by empowering you to easily overcome even bigger obstacles that might appear on your path in the future.

Put It to the Test

Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.”

I love this saying because it shows you how an unexpected stumble can end up bouncing you closer to your goals, faster than you might expect.

So this week, I encourage you to take some time to evaluate a recent failure you might have experienced.

Or maybe you can focus on a setback that happened a long time ago but still makes you feel bad when you think about it.

Ask yourself the questions I just shared with you.

  • What prevented you from achieving the outcome you wanted?
  • What happened that you didn’t expect?
  • What role did your actions or assumptions play in creating the situation?
  • What skills or knowledge would have helped you avoid that situation?
  • If you were in that situation again, what would you choose to do differently?
  • And who could have helped you avoid that failure or recover and learn from it faster?
  • Finally, what will you do differently going forward?

By embracing your failures and learning the valuable lessons they can teach you, you will accelerate your own personal growth and become the capable and successful person you most desire to be.

For additional success strategies and resources, download my Affirmations for Success. This step-by-step guide will help you replace limiting beliefs and learn how to fail forward to success in your life.


As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!

Image courtesy of Sami Abdullah.

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