Go and Fail….Now

We all make mistakes – it’s how we learn.

It regularly surprises me that so many people seem afraid to fail.

When I talk to people about blogging (and often, this is in order to convince them to try it), one of the things I hear a lot is that they are worried about writing something that’s incorrect or that other people might not agree with. WOW, I’ve never thought that when writing these blog pieces. This is an alien concept to me but seeing as though so many people say it, I thought it was worth giving some time to in this post.

I often get a similar reaction when talking to people about how I started my business at 19, straight out of University. They say things like: ‘I could never have done that’, or ‘you’re very brave doing that’ Well the truth is I never even questioned it – not once. Failure was not an option – I was going to throw everything I had at my business in order to see it succeed.

You probably won’t remember back to when you were one, but around that time you probably learnt to walk. Did it happen straight away? Did you bounce up one day from crawling, onto two feet and proudly walk around? I’ll tell you now, you didn’t! You probably had a few goes and quite a few falls – some really hurt. You failed a number of times but you persisted and then, one day, you were finally able to walk 🙂

Richard Branson, in his book ‘Business Stripped Bare’ (aff link) gives another good example of this in the music world (one he knows pretty well :)). Listen to a musician learning to play a new song. They try and try again before getting it right, they fail hundreds of times, it’s just part of the process.

It seems to me, that as we are growing up we’re more prepared to fail in order to learn. What happens when we become adults? Why do some many people become afraid to step out of line and do something a bit different?

I think this separates the true Entrepreneurs – they don’t have this worry about failure, it’s just part of the process.

So here’s the thing, if you don’t push your boundaries, if you don’t try new things with a preparation for getting it wrong, then you’re not going to get anywhere new. Entrepreneurs are awesome at this – they don’t question failure, it’s part of their makeup. They pick themselves up after a fall, dust themselves off and learn from it.

Through life, you’d be extremely lucky if everything you do works out exactly as planned, every decision you make ends up being the right one – it rarely happens.

So get stuck in – don’t question the what might be’s – try and find out for yourself….today

Do you worry about failure or do you just jump on in? I’m really interested to know your views on this.


  1. Robert Pickstone on 23rd July 2010 at 5:25 pm

    100% agree Al.

    Generally speaking, the older people grow, the more fear (and fear of failure) becomes a factor in their lives. Children have very few fears but by the time they develop into adults there seems to be list as long as your arm of things that they are not willing to do or don’t think they can do.

    Quite often those who are considered to be entrepreneurs don’t seem to be afraid of things others quite often are – such as speaking to a group, opening up about ideas and thoughts, and wanting to get to know new people. They have not let these fears develop.

    I am no entrepreneur myself but what I do know is that conquering fears and pushing failure out of your thinking can really open doors and help greatly with personal development.

    You are right – more people should “Go and Fail”. Why not? We only get one shot as this.


    • Banksy on 23rd July 2010 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks Rob, Maybe we could convince some of the guys doing #21days to challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zones and see how it goes 🙂

  2. Robin Dickinson on 23rd July 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Hi Al,

    Failure is a fascinating topic. Building on your excellent post, I’m actually a huge fan of failure. What I mean is this:

    Failure gives me feedback as to what is NOT working, so that I can adjust my approach and try something new and different;

    Failure keeps other out. Many run from the risk of failure – they take it personally. This is especially useful in business, because the more people perceive that it’s a difficult market/project, the fewer people will actually participate. Some of the ‘toughest’ markets/situations have provided me with the most lucrative opportunities.

    Failure keeps you sharp. It heightens your awareness of what’s going on around you – especially opportunities. Keen senses are valuable indeed.

    Failure begs success. The more spectacularly I fail, the more hungry I become for the solution. Failure is like a magnet for better ways – more focus, stronger NO, more careful about the people I hang out with, higher quality inputs etc.

    Failure stimulates creativity. Most of my best ideas have come from persistent, nagging failures. I call it the NOT in my stomach – “New Opportunity Time”. 😉

    Failure energises you. It’s like a spark plug that jolts immediate and continued action.

    I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

    The BIG thing about failure becoming a huge positive force for success in your business and life in general, is NOT to personalize it, but to harness it’s power for immediate, effective and positive change.

    And one more thing…

    Fear of failure is like a disease that spreads creating myths that dope people into lowered expectations about what’s possible. Faliure just is! It’s our interpretation of it that is so important.

    Best, Robin

    • Banksy on 13th August 2010 at 9:33 am

      Robin – Im so sorry it took me so long to get back to you guys on this post – A pretty crazy couple of weeks!

      Thank you so much again for such a detailed and thoughtful comment 🙂 I keep pointing people in the way of your Black Chair work by the way 🙂

  3. Kate Groom on 24th July 2010 at 8:12 am

    I share Robin’s perspective on this and consider that things not working out as we expected (failure) is simply part of life and business. What seems to keep people going through the inevitable setbacks is belief that the end is worthwhile and persistence in finding a way to achieve the goal. When we truly want to make something happen, we tend to find a way.

    In lots of cases, failure in achieving the big goals we set comes as a result of people simply stopping taking action, essentially giving up on the goal. Others who are clearer on the vision, more able to persist, willing to do what it takes, will often get there.

    As Robin said, ‘failure just is’ — and fear is a self generated roadblock that gets in the way of action in pursuit of our goals. If you want something, go out and make it happen and persist until you achieve it.

    • Banksy on 13th August 2010 at 9:35 am

      Thanks Kate, it’s great to see you on my blog, Im only sorry I didnt respond more quickly, A few very busy weeks in the office 🙂

      Goal setting is a fantastic topic – got me thinking about a new blog post, so thanks 🙂

  4. Jed Langdon on 24th July 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Great post Al. I completely agree with your perspective that embracing failure is one of the main things that separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. Common ground that all successful people share is the desire to keep pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, take some risks and learn from mistakes.

    I also think there are some really interesting parallels to draw from your post to do with organisational culture and leadership. I firmly believe that the best organisations and the best leaders are those that encourage their staff/followers to push themselves out of their comfort zones and to take risks, but support them and help them learn and reflect when they fail. Failure within organisations should not be punished, as long as it is learned from. Failure is part of organisational learning and I’m sure the companies that are at the top of their games right now embrace this approach.


    • Banksy on 13th August 2010 at 9:37 am

      Hi Jed,

      Totally agree with your views on this for leadership and culture in companies. We try and empower our staff at Optix as much as possible understanding that on occasion they will fail. It’s then that we need to try and help them reflect and see where it went wrong so that we all grow stronger as a team.

      Thanks again for your comment 🙂

  5. Dave Pearce on 24th July 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Alistair great post, as the post, and subsequent discussions highlight a number of interesting streams of thought in terms of failure gets more extreme as we move through life, this can be particularly true for late starters on the ‘entrepreneurship’ road, highlighted in Rob’s comments. Moreover, I think failure revolves around the goals you are judging yourself against?
    I was interested in the idea of what is failure, particularly from a entrepreneurs perspective, clearly with any new business (any business) uncertainty and risk are ever present. I don’t think ‘failure’ is a simple notion, it implies an absence of success, and like success it can only be understood in relation to the goals and expectations that are set by the individual, (and the organisation). Failure happens when expectations are not met, it is a question of degree, in other words failure means different things to different stakeholders /individuals.
    Clearly, through life, in business we are all going to have failures, the key message has got to be failure will happen to some degree, the essence of success is going to be resilience, and what you – the enterprise, has learnt from the ‘failure’. Will Kings – ‘How to build a great business in tough times’ his SPACE acronym has resonance to this post, entrepreneurship and new business start ups:
    S: Satisfaction of success.
    P: Passion and persistence.
    A: Attitude of action.
    C: Confidence and common sense.
    E: Enthuse, exceed, enjoy.

    Thanks for the post, it really got me thinking about how failure is integral to shaping your successes, so what have you got to fear?

    • Banksy on 13th August 2010 at 9:39 am

      Dave thank you so much for that – great comment and great points. I’d not come across the space acronym so I will look that up 🙂 Do you run your own business?

      • davepea on 22nd August 2010 at 1:15 pm

        Hi Alistair,

        in answer to your last question – we are a relatively new business, based in Plymouth – Actuate Marketing. Three of us with a whole load of experience across a wide range of marketing and sales from strategy to implementation,( the most important part) getting a lot of work in market research presently. We have been going for about 12 months, we have some great clients, really exciting working with great colleagues and businesses, adding value and insight to their businesses.

        Actuate Marketing – 0845 275 7028, who knows you might need research, strategic development, always happy to collaborate.

        Keep smiling and keep up the great work.



        • Banksy on 24th August 2010 at 8:25 am

          Thanks Dave – will look out for you – if you’re up in Exeter then let me know and we can meet up 🙂

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