How to Succeed by Failing Fast

by David Ning · 16 comments

Once you understand that failing leads to positive results, then it’s not a question of whether you will fail, but how fast and often you are able to do so.

Are you afraid of failing? Don’t worry if you are, because I am too. But think hard about everything you are at least semi-good at. Were you this good when you first started?

It Applies to Hobbies

My wife Emma is a great cook. So much so that EVERYONE, without exception, who tasted her homemade food agrees. Yet, I’m pretty sure she didn’t start out knowing which ingredient to put into her dishes. I mean, she could be a born cooking genius for all I know, but not every dish she’s ever cooked in her life was universally regarded as “tasty”. If she never put in the wrong ingredients before, how will she ever understand that certain spices just don’t mix? Even if she never failed, the first dinner she’s ever prepared cannot possibly compare to what she cooks now. The secret to her success may have something to do with her natural abilities, but more importantly, it’s her relentless pursuit to try new recipes and improve her skills.

It Works with Debt and Investing Too

Are you putting off your debt repayment plan because you don’t think the tiny extra payment matters? Or perhaps you don’t have debt but have been putting off your contribution to your 401k? Let me be honest, because you are right in many ways. Watching your 401k balance when you first start your contribution is like waiting for ants to transport bread across the room. It’s boring and it seems to take forever.

I can see how unmotivated you may feel at first, but read the stories of people who built a six figure balance with a meager salary. If they can do it, so can you. Consistency pays, no matter how impossible it seems at the beginning.

It’s the Key to Making Money

So many people wait for the perfect opportunity to start a business. The perfect time, the perfect partners, and the perfect business plan. Yet, many successful business start off with no plans at all. It’s not that planning is bad, but because events happen in real time and plans need to adapt. The economy can change, business partners can leave, and the grand vision may not even be viable once you get into it. Businesses try new things all the time. They may fail, but then they just try again until something sticks.

Maybe you want to make more money but you are afraid that your skills aren’t good enough. Well, guess what? The more you do it, the better you will be at it. And you want to know something? You will always get criticism along the way.

Take my Save Money on Everything ebook for example. Two days ago, I published a snippet of it and one reader wrote this comment.

Oh David, it pains me to say this but what’s the point? This content is glaringly obvious and does not encourage readers to return.

Yikes. But when I check the numbers, there were 14 other people on the same day that decided to get the free ebook because of that article. There will always be people who won’t like what you do, think you charge too much or throw cold water at your ideas, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your troubles.

Every idea may not start out good, and you will fail and feel discouraged. The key to greatness is almost never how you start, but the constant refinements along the way. After all, you are judged by the current product, not how many times you had to improve it.

Actually, if you think about it, Mike’s comment is so valuable. In many ways, he was right, and his insight can only make the ebook better. If I never let others access to the article, how could I improve on it in the future?

Don’t be Afraid

No one starts out being successful. We learn, adapt, change, and eventually are able to produce something of quality. Natural abilities are important, but hard work and constant improvement is what makes cents.

Sara will eventually learn how to walk. She won’t be afraid to fail, and she will eventually succeed. That, I think we all know.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor February 10, 2010 at 7:23 am

You are so right, in that everyone do eventually learn how to walk if we just keep trying.

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CD Phi February 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

I totally see what you’re trying to say…And one thing I can relate to is the business aspect. If you’re always waiting for the RIGHT partner and RIGHT place…you’ll never start your business so sometimes it’s just best to jump in.

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MoneyNing February 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

I think the concept of trying makes so much sense that most people regard it as “basic”, but many people I know fail to start again and again because they are waiting for the perfect moment.

Sometimes, it’s easier, less risky, and much faster to just try out your idea and see if it will work or not.

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CD Phi February 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

Exactly. Just trying isn’t going to cut it anymore…You have to set yourself up to actually do it.

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Baby G February 10, 2010 at 10:08 am

Well said. Being afraid to try different things is a character flaw that most of us can do without.

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MoneyNing February 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

I think most entrepreneurs are afraid too, but those who are successful just learned, through experience no doubt, that action is ultimately how they became successful.

No one made money doing nothing, that’s for sure.

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Robert February 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

You can’t learn if you don’t get out and try. If you DO learn without doing, you’re a genius.

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Pam February 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I totally agree with your post. We are only ever a true failure if we fail to try. I have read many stories about successful business owners and they all talk about their many failures that ultimately taught them how to succeed. If they had been afraid to fail, then their businesses would never have existed.

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Francis February 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for using yourself as an example. It’s one thing to read about the philosophies, but it’s another to actually see it being performed.

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MoneyNing February 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

No problem at all. Like I said, the reader had a point, and it could only help.

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Jorge Barba February 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Bingo. A quote that illustrates this point:

A can accept failure but I can’t accept not trying. – Michael Jordan

Result: 6 championships, 5 NBA MVP awards, HOF and argubly the Greatest ever.

A competitor wants to win but is also aware that failure comes with the territory, the point is you need to keep moving.

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Michael - BCA February 11, 2010 at 5:16 am

Great post. It is true if we are afraid to fail then we will never succeed. Well said.

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Craig February 11, 2010 at 8:29 am

Sometimes you need to take chances, and the best way to learn is by learning what doesn’t work. With money though sometimes it may not be the best way to learn cause financially it could hurt badly.

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basicmoneytips February 12, 2010 at 2:51 am

I have mixed feelings about this article. I definately know you have to take chances and risks, we have all heard the story of the Bill Gates and how he dropped out of college to start Microsoft. However, remember there are probably millions of other drop-outs who are working at fast food restaurants too.

I do think you should do what makes you happy and what you can stand. By that I mean if you have a low tolerance for risk, is it really good to go out and start your own business. Maybe, but if it drives you be stressed constantly is that what you want?

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Kristine March 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Good article. Too often, we are so rigid that the stars have to align perfectly for us to take action. We really do learn when we take action…even when we fail.

“The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ” -Lloyd Jones

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Louisa | 41Nine November 4, 2011 at 4:49 am

I’m going to give this article to my 11-year-old as well. Encouragement of teenagers are often not given enough emphasis and they sure do need it. Thanks!

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