Love to Fail: 3 Tips to Help Learn From Failure

One of the most difficult things that I’ve had to learn over the years is how to embrace failure. It always feels…bad. It’s hard to accept, and I don’t look forward to the consequences of it.

I do like how easy it is to learn from a huge failure, though. It seems to soften the blow a bit. If it’s something you’ve not yet experienced, you will at some point in your career or your life. Mistakes happen, and you should always learn from them, and learn how not to make the same mistake again.


Figure out what went wrong. If you find yourself sitting there wondering how you wound up in the particular situation, you’re in trouble. Knowing why something went wrong is the biggest part of not letting it happen again.

I’ve always found that the best way to “figure it out” is to sit down with someone you trust and talk about it. Generally someone who has more knowledge and experience than you can provide better insight, but if you can’t find someone like that, it’s not necessary, it’s just what I think works best.

Having multiple sources that you can talk to, can give a good spread of knowledge, as well as differing viewpoints that you can then take, digest, and learn from. For example, I spend a lot of time talking with my Dad about what goes on at my job, and he will always give me good insight on general principles I should use to prevent problems and fix ones that did happen.

My boss is also a tool that I use. From him I get focused direction and mentoring often directly relating to our company. Together, I get good theories and an understanding of things from my Dad, and a sense of how to implement those theories in a relative way from my boss.


In my experience, regurgitating my discoveries has proven to be a great way of remembering them. It also provides a bit of backup so you don’t make the same mistake again. A good co-worker should tell you when you’re messing up. If they have a good understanding of how you made a mistake, there’s a chance that they can prevent you from making it if they see you going down that road again.

After a discussion with my boss or my Dad, I will frequently share it with those who are best able to keep me accountable. In my case, these are the people that I generally hand work off to, or give direction to. I spend the majority of my time working closely with these people, so I believe they would be able to recognize the beginning of a mistake if I am not able to. You should find people like that as well.


Writing down your thoughts, ideas and the things you learn is another excellent way to get it in your head and remember it. Learning something does you no good if you’re just going to forget it the next morning. You need to be aware of what you learn so you can apply it. Writing your knowledge down helps you retain information.

Writing also gives you a “quick-list” of valuable information that you can review. I personally have a bulleted list of 100 or so things that I believe are key to doing my job well, preventing mistakes and helping those I work with do their jobs well.

Blogging about it is good too. This blog allows me to take the things I’ve learned (some of my key bullets), and express them and expand on them. Usually I end up learning more about the subject in the hours I’ll spend writing an article.

If you’d like to give writing an article with some pointers on what you’ve learned a try, but don’t want your own blog, send them to us. If we like them, we’d love to post them here (giving you full credit, of course). If you have a blog and make a post like this, let us know, we’d love to read/link to it.

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  1. 1 07.08.08
    9:58 am

    Teaching for me, is the best way to learn from a mistake. Whenever I do poorly on a programming assignment, I’ll try to teach someone I know about the problem and how they should go about doing it. It always helps me learn from my mistakes and makes me a better developer.

    I also really like blogging. I’ve written a number of tutorials and learned a number of things from the comments. If I get even the littlest thing wrong, the readers tell me. I can learn from those comments and improve my skills.

  2. 2 07.08.08
    3:35 pm

    You never really fail if you get back up and keep trying and learn from your mistakes. The only person who fails is the one who gives up - otherwise it is a just a barrier that you have to cross to meet your goals.

  3. 3 07.09.08
    10:49 am

    @Tom: That is very true. From my observations, a good number of people seem to get hung up on how to learn from their mistakes and failures.

    It seems to be a difficult and painful process for them, that usually requires a fair bit of denial and finger pointing before any change/improvement will happen.

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