Failing Forward

No-one is exempt – we all fail. The key to failing forwards rather than backwards lies in how we handle failures – even if they are not of your own making.

I've just finished reading one of John Maxwell's latest books 'Failing Forward'*. He asks some great questions – 'If you've failed, are you a failure?' 'Is the past holding your life hostage?' 'Who is this person making these mistakes?'

There's nothing like reading & learning from other people's failures especially if you, like me, have had your fair share of disastrous bungles to overcome.

Let me share a few people who learned to fail forward (thanks to Christian Oey for sending me these examples

Abraham Lincoln lost multiple jobs, went bankrupt, and failed in numerous bids for public office before eventually being sworn in as the 16th President of the United States.

e.e. Cummings first book of poetry was rejected by fifteen publishers. Fifteen. So…as you do, he self published it, dedicated it to the fifteen rejectors, and became one of America's greatest poets. Nobody has ever heard of the fifteen names that rejected his book. Funny that.

J.K. Rowling was on the dole. Her first Harry Potter book was rejected by twelve publishers. Twelve! It was eventually purchased by the relatively small publishing house Bloomsbury in London, and that was only because the CEO's daughter begged him to print it.

Rowling's story is inspiration enough, don't you think?...but let's go one more author...

Mark Twain was a failed Gold Miner. He also sunk $300,000.00 of his own money into a typesetting machine that was eventually, brutally, made obsolete. He went bankrupt. Twain ended up writing a little novel called "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".

Leo Tolstoy was a wannabe writer who wrote a book called "War & Peace" whilst living in a small house with his wife…oh, & his 13 kids.

Walt Disney was a failed, bankrupt, small-time ad man before that whole mouse thing happened.

Greta Garbo held steady through seven months of hardball silence after negotiating a new but fair contract with Louis B. Mayer. Seven months of silence as her negotiating tactic! Mayer eventually caved in and she got her price. (Know your worth!).

So be encouraged, when you fail, make sure it's forwards, not backwards.

Peter Irvine
Peter is Co-Founder of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, author of "Win In Business", speaker and business consultant.

*'Failing Forward' is available for order at

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