Fail Fast and Often


If you (or anyone) were to plot the course of your life as a graph, it would show high points and low points – turning points in your life. Though we all wish life was a steady flow of positive experiences, success in every area, and easy living, the fact is, no one has a steady line. There are ups and downs for every one of us. 

Now the good news is that if you are a low point, you don’t have to stay there. In his latest book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, John C. Maxwell talks about the value of those low points. He agrees with the adage that failure is the best teacher and recommends we experience failure fast and often. 

As someone who is well versed on this subject, having hit those low points from a very young age, I can tell you some ways to experience the failure “fast”.  “Fast” is the key word here. Fast means you recognize it for what it is and find a way to move on quickly. The “often” part will happen, either of its own accord or from our mistakes. But the key is to learn quickly and get back up. 

How are some ways you can get past the low points quickly? 

  1. Master your mindset. This is the first point for a reason. DECIDE that you WILL get back to topside. DECIDE you will fight. DECIDE you will not quit. The movie In Pursuit of Happiness, based on the true story of Christopher Gardner, is truly inspirational. If you’re in one of life’s dips right now, I encourage you to watch that movie. It will get you fired up to get back up and fight another day. And it will challenge all those excuses you may be thinking of right now.
  2. Evaluate the situation. What went right? And just as importantly, what went wrong? Literally, write down both sides of the equation. Going forward, keep the right, and right the wrongs. You may make new mistakes in the future, but this will help you to break the pattern of past mistakes so they do not become a habit.
  3. Reach out for help. I’m not talking about standing on a street corner asking for money from drivers passing by – that is giving in to defeat. I’m talking about doing what Chris did. He went up to someone who was successful and asked them, not for a handout, but for advice: “What do you do, and how did you get there?” If you are a person of faith, as I am, you know the power of praying through the low points. And seek out those who are strong and positive encouragers. You need them at these points in life.
  4. Take action. Here’s the final key. You’ve determined to learn from the failure, and you’ve sought advice. That is exactly the right path. But now, you MUST act on it. You must decide to do what you know you need to do. It will be a lot of work, but you just need to start. You don’t have to wait for the right circumstances. One of the most compelling points in Chris’ story was when he and his son had to spend the night sleeping in a public restroom – and he woke up the next morning and went back to work at the prestigious brokerage firm without missing a beat. You just have to start where you are and take one step at a time, day after day, consistently. We each have a choice: fail and grovel in failure indefinitely; or fail, learn, grow, and claw our way back to the top. When people do chart their lives, it is amazing to see that the lower the point, the higher the level of the next turning point in their lives. What if just on the other side of failure was one of the highest points of your life? You could miss it if you don’t apply these principles. 

It’s like that line in the movie Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” What are YOU going to do?


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