Every goal, every project, every business fails, at some point. It’s how leaders handle failure that determines whether an endeavor will succeed or not. As Malcolm Forbes said, “Failure is success if we learn from it.”
Here are ten real-world lessons from failure that can help us all build back better.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Stand for Your Clients
“One of my clients died in the northern region of Arizona State on the Indian reservation. She reached her goal of 3 months of sobriety however left the treatment to ensure her daughter was safe. Both she and her daughter couldn’t resist the addiction, and sadly fell to domestic violence
I had an opportunity to say “no” to her leaving the program. This failure has taught me a very good lesson, which I have included in my newest book “12 Principles of Soulful Success.” Since then I have tried as hard as I can to give 150% to change my clients’ lives everyday.”
CEO of Harbor Health Integrated Care
2. Human Beings Will Always Defy the Numbers
“Having come from a background of astrophysics and cosmology, I always believed that numbers tell the story. A Ph.D. and a couple of postdocs later, my toolbox turned out to be insufficient on my new journey into business and finance. The shocking though perhaps fundamental realization unfolded: the world revolves around — and is driven by — human beings, not cold numbers.
“Needing to find a systematic way to measure the human decision-making process, I co-founded Cognovi Labs, combining behavioral psychology with artificial intelligence.
“The implications have been far-reaching, as I find myself guiding companies on how to increase sales, helping patients adhere to their medication, supporting the vaccination campaign and counteracting disinformation.”
Beni Gradwohl, Ph.D.
Co-Founder & CEO Cognovi Labs, Inc.
3. Your Weaknesses are Your Greatest Teachers
“In 2019-20 we at Kurvana had the perfect storm of challenges. Our revenue took a hit and we had to layoff 80% of our staff. It felt like everything was broken.
“With swift and bold decision making, we decided to regroup and find the weakness that was weighing us down, our hardware. It was time for some big changes, and it took us nearly a year to introduce our next generation hardware and packaging. By creating new, best-in-class, proprietary devices, sustainable packaging and expanding our portfolio of products, we built back even stronger.
“Year to date, we have already launched multiple new product lines with many exciting new projects in the works. This crisis has been by far one of my greatest failures and lessons. With a clearer and better lens, I am continuously striving to improve the company as we move forward.”
CEO of Kurvana
4. Keep Moving Forward
“Don’t waste your time regretting; time is a finite resource. When the crypto market crashed in 2018, it was a big blow. I saw people lose their money, jobs, and companies in a moment. And I began to think about what to do to prevent this from happening again, how to help users safely use the benefits of the crypto market, and to increase the level of financial literacy for all comers. The cryptocurrency market is built according to its own laws. You need to know them and turn them in your favor.
“We are currently creating and developing a mobile crypto bank MinePlex CrossFi Banking, built on CrossFi technology, which synthesizes the benefits of traditional financial services and the reliability of the blockchain. This is the trend of the next 5 years and the solution to the main challenges of the market.”
Co-founder & CMO, Mineplex
5. Get the Help You Need
“In 2017 when my newly incorporated construction company was beginning to win contract bids not in the hundreds of thousands but in millions of dollars, I found that I could no longer personally oversee the dozens of employees and numerous concurrent projects that were happening leading to poor cost control that hurt my bottom line.”
“I realized that my business interests grew beyond what a traditional family business mindset could handle and I had to educate myself into more contemporary forms of management and control. I acknowledged this and pivoted into educating myself and hiring expert consultants to help me restructure not only the people but processes within the company, eventually allowing the business to be able to complete and win bids for even larger projects. This growth mindset I have since applied to my numerous other business ventures and all have seen tremendous growth and success since.”
Owner and CEO of Connectum
6. Don’t Delegate Too Soon
“As college students, we decided to sell discount cards to students on four college campuses, with discounts at various stores and restaurants around town. That business didn’t do too well, and that was when I learned my biggest lesson – when starting a business, you must not only plan out every step, but you must be there personally on the ground grinding away and not delegating any important functions.
“It is only much later can you start hiring people and delegating, but never in the beginning. This lesson I took to heart and it is one that allowed me to eventually found Solomon Admissions Consulting and make it a leader in the college admissions consulting industry.”
7. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
“In 2018, we had a team of five people, but only one developer to work on both the front end and the back end, which is simply too much for one person.
“We were getting ready to launch, and one day, he just went AWOL, and the project was not finished. One day, then two, then three, four… We sat for days and days and it felt like we were standing completely still during a race.
“Fortunately, after five days he came back; those five days I will never forget. It was the high-risk factor of having all knowledge and responsibility resting in the hands of one person.
One piece of advice – make sure you’re not dependent on one person for important tasks that can kill your company. Never put all your eggs in one basket.
“In the start-up world, the term “failure” should not be viewed as a binary or a one-time event. You will fail multiple times on the journey towards success, and your company will go through an evolution along the way. Keep failing, it’s a process, and through the culmination of all that, success will inevitably show up.”
CEO of Relevnt
8. Play the Cards You’re Dealt, Not the Ones You Want
“Back in 2018, I was leading the development and promotion of an exceptionally high performance blockchain protocol, in the top blockchain tech company in Taiwan. Our blockchain could outperform the leading blockchain process twelve-fold. We were well funded and recruited more than 100 of the top talents in Taiwan.
“However, one day in 2019, I came back from a week-long vacation to find that the company no longer existed. It had dissolved over the ongoing dispute and lawsuits between its founder and investors.
“A small group of ex-colleagues joined me later that year to start our new adventure at Blocto. Many others joined other leading companies in the industry, who later became our liaisons to these potential partners. Now, after starting over from scratch we have an exponentially growing user base, steady revenue stream and we’ve just closed a round of roughly US$ 10M for us to expand. We’re ready to disrupt, once again.”
CEO and Founder, Portto
9. With Every Challenge Comes Opportunity
“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to act fast. First, we decided to reduce our activity in all of our secondary markets and target all of our resources into the United States, German and Russian markets. We managed to further strengthen our team while our competitors were closing their branches and firing a lot of experienced professionals. Some of our competitors were forced to cancel or suspend their marketing activities, or sometimes just hesitated to make business decisions.
“All of this gave us the opportunity to sign profitable contracts. We increased sales in the U.S. market five-fold in 2021, became the official partner of the Miami Dolphins, and signed contracts with major distributors who appreciated our proactive stance during the pandemic.”
Co-founder Organika Vodka
10. Determination and Perseverance Win in the End
“As satellites provided a new perspective from low earth orbit, I saw the potential that drones can also provide meaningful data from near earth, and therefore co-founded Nearthlab. While I was committed wholeheartedly to my idea, it was not easy. Wind power has been overlooked across the Asia Pacific, despite the ample wind resources.
“Therefore, I decided to tackle the issue globally and managed to bring in business opportunities from outside my region. Fast forward a couple of years, wind power is booming globally in line with the global trend of going green and now, Nearthlab has performed 50% of WTG inspection in Korea, expanded service coverage to 70% of Europe, and partnered with the world’s leading turbine manufacturers and O&M companies. It is full commitment and believing in yourself that gets you started but it is determination and perseverance that carry you through to the finish.”
Failure is a necessary part of learning in any endeavor, from learning to walk, to building a Fortune 500 company. Too often we are either so afraid of failure that we don’t take action on our most important priorities, or view one setback as a defining and defeating experience. On the contrary, it’s those leaders who pick themselves back up, learn from their failures, and continue moving forward who in the end will reach their desired results.