Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success


A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how he felt failing one thousand times. He replied,

“I didn’t fail one thousand times. The light bulb is an invention that requires 1000 steps. I have learned 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.”

Thomas Edison must have mastered the art of failing forward.

Here’s something crucial to note about failure!

It is the learning when you fail that deserves celebration, not the failure itself. Failure without lessons learned is a failure.

Failure is not a joke; it is expensive to fail. It’s not fashionable as well. The truth is people who shun failure deny themselves the opportunity to reinvent and innovate.

Let’s face it, we must have failed at one point in life, but we chose to stay down or fail forward.


Can Setbacks Fuel Future Success?

1. Failure Teaches Better Than the Best Teacher

“The bigger your failure, the bigger your chance of achieving success.”

What’s the rationale behind this fact?

It’s because with every failure comes life lessons that you may never learn from the world’s best university. Failure helps you prioritize what you normally ignore. Perhaps you have been ignoring some bad habits because they are not big red flags yet. Failure will enable you to confront your fears and tendencies in a way you wouldn’t have if you had not failed.

Here’s another quick one!

If you have not failed before, you definitely missed the opportunities to reflect and figure out your motivations.


2. Failure Makes You Strong and Wise

The wisdom and strength that you exude when you share what life has taught are what I’m talking about here. The lessons become a significant part of your journey and success.

It’s like the making of a movie. Sometimes, you miss the line while acting the script, and you rehearse. Every rehearsal is an opportunity to become better. Likewise, each setback is an opportunity to develop the courage to fail forward.

3. Failure Makes Your Story Compelling

Your obstacles produce the most incredible story ever told—stories of how you surmount your challenges and achieve the success you desire. These kinds of stories impact and give others hope.


It would be uninteresting to reflect at the end of life and realize you have never failed. It would most likely depict a life of mediocrity and complacency. Without failure, you cannot tell compelling stories or record noteworthy feats.

4. Failure Sharpens You and Causes You to Grow

It’s like an iron that has not been sharpened by iron (challenges). Setback signals the need to grow. This is because failure can shape and mold you to fit the personality that matches your destiny. Why not look beyond your present predicament and focus on the person of your dream?

5. Failure Makes You Fit to Pursue Your Goals

Failing forward despite setbacks means you believe you can. It means you can move on despite obstacles.

This resolution helps you always to stay fit to pursue your goals. The judgment and opinions of others can no longer sway you. You are more resolute and committed to seeing your goals come to reality.

9 Tips to Fail Forward

You can leverage failure to fuel your growth in any aspect of your life. Here are 9 proven tips to fail forward.


1. Determine the Possible Challenges

Begin by determining the exact stumbling blocks between you and your success. When you think about your success, negativity becomes a challenge that can assault your mind.

What if I fail? What if I don’t make it to the end?

Go ahead and list all the factors that could cause you to fail. Write them in your journal. When you are done, you have a list of potential limitations to your success.

Now, take them one after the other and reflect the best ways to overcome them. Activate your action plan. Attack each limitation until you clear all and achieve your next level of success.


2. Develop a Strategy

When you keep aiming at a goal and you keep failing, refuse self-degenerating thoughts. Instead, assess and change your strategy. You don’t have to change your goals as long as they are SMART GOALS; you only need to change your approach.

Figure out what you’re missing and design a system to avoid future mistakes. Find an accountability partner or a mentor to share input and ideas on your strategy. Commit at least 10-15 hours refining your strategy. Keep positive people around you and think positively.

3. Educate Yourself

It will be great if you can research about what lies ahead of you. Find out if someone has passed through it and learn from their experience.


Thomas Edison made 1000 attempts; how did he manage the failure? What can I do to overcome anxiety and depression that comes with failing?

Equip yourself to surmount challenges when they arise.

4. Seek Advice

Isolation is a killer of success. Don’t isolate yourself from people that can help you. Talk to someone either your mentor or an accountability partner about the circumstances.

If you had the opportunity to meet Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison, what questions would you ask? Perhaps, how Lincoln led the nation through one of the most significant moments in the history of the United States despite his inner troubles. How Edison failed forward until his dream of a light bulb for humanity came to reality.


Ask your contacts to point out limitations and the mistakes they made. Leverage this experience to shorten your learning curves. You can also You can also enroll in courses designed to help you overcome obstacles.

5. Reflect on Your WHYs

Someone once said if your WHY is big enough, the HOW will show up. Take some minutes to write and reflect on why you want to overcome obstacles and achieve your next level of success. Think yourself into the new feeling, esteem, and lifestyle you desire. This is called visualization!

6. Live Life With No Regrets

It will be worse to live this cosmos, regretting you didn’t give it your best shot.

You will die someday. Why not die empty? The global average lifespan is 72 years. That means you have, on average, about 26,280 days to live.


Value each day and refuse to live your life by default, but by design. Manage your time effectively and live every second of your life deliberately.

Pursue your goals. Take calculated risks, and know that every risk comes with failure. However, you cannot become successful without taking risks.

7. Celebrate Your Small Wins

Every achievement takes you one step closer to your success. While waiting for the final day, take out time to celebrate those small victories.

Perhaps you have completed your weekly to-do list; you can pamper yourself. You may visit the cinema, attend a yoga class or visit the spa. That way, you will generate momentum to surmount the next obstacles.

8. Learn From Each Day

Every day is an opportunity to show up in the school of life. Show up to learn from life’s instructor—failure. Open yourself to events and experiences as they present you the opportunity to learn.


Your greatest teacher in life is ‘failure.’ The more you fail, the less you become afraid of failing as you would have transcended your setbacks and emerged stronger and fit.

9. Accept Reality

When you fail, admit! Admit that there’s nothing you can do about the failure. Accept that life must continue, and that’s what failing forward is all about.

Acceptance helps you to make progress. It helps you to gain liberty so you can figure out the next step to take.

Final Thoughts

Above all, maintain a positive attitude. Your attitude is fundamental to your outcome. Always preempt obstacles, and don’t let life happen to you.


Refuse to live your life by default, but by design. Seek counsel from past overcomers and learn from their experience.

Keep moving. Don’t stop, and celebrate every little achievement. Fail forward, and fail fast!


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