Is There a Benefit to Failing?

Failure success sign

When we don’t lean into failure, mining it for lessons and for a reason it showed up in our work and life, we are left seeing failure as an obstacle, roadblock or misstep that’s regrettable.

It can cause us to shame and blame ourselves. Relationships and meaningful connections can also be affected because when we can share our failures then we can connect on a human level.

This is further exacerbated by expecting that there are “picture perfect people, teams, families and organizations; we’re left thinking we’re falling short. But “picture perfect” does not exist. What if instead we could lean into failure and ask, “what do I need to learn? How can this build greater connections and how did failure show up in life, business, or career to serve you?”

You may be wondering how anyone could actually lean into failure. Here are four powerful ways to FLIP failure:

F – FAIL

When we fail, although it may not be something we’ve chosen, it can help us grow, awaken and learn something that we didn’t realize we needed to learn. Honouring, noticing and acknowledging the failure is essential in order for growth and meaning to arise from it.

L- LEARN

Fail stands for “first attempt in learning.” There’s a great quote:

“- If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means “first Attempt In Learning”
– End is not the end, if fact E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies”
– If you get No as an answer, remember N.O. means “Next Opportunity”.
So let’s be positive.”

― A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

But what about the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth attempt? That’s when we really start to stress about our abilities or think our teams aren’t performing or even our businesses are failing. What if, on that fifth, six or maybe hundredth time, we’ve learned enough to propel our success, that it can ignite us? It’s having the grit to be able to persist despite resistance.

I – IGNITE

When we can lean into the learning, we find a passion of focus, purpose, clarity, and direction that we may not have found had we been playing it safe and not potentially risking or experiencing failure. On the other side of failure is often our greatest opportunity to meaningfully contribute to those we love, teams we work in and the communities we are part of.

P – PRAISE

The over thirty great Canadians I interviewed for my new book, were able to recognize their own greatness and the greatness all around them despite failure. Ask yourself, when was the last time you recognized yourself or somebody else despite the roadblock, obstacle or challenge you ran into? Typically, recognition is conditional, such as having to go above and beyond expectations. For example, you reach the end of a project or meet that financial target, then you get kudos. Well, what about recognizing the accomplishments along the way? Isn’t progress just as worthy of praise as the outcome?

I invite you to lean into this, and if you’re not sure, take the Failure Resiliency Quiz. Are you accepting failure or are you accusing and resisting failure in your life, work or business?

The power of leaning into and seeing the flip side allows you to flip it faster because let’s face it, it’s going to happen anyway.


Sarah McVanel is often described as the “Organizational Therapist”, helping staff and leaders utilize easy and sustainable strategies to value and retain their best staff through recognition. Sarah has helped thousands – from Not-For-Profits to Multi-National corporations – leverage the exponential power of recognition to retain their top talent and sustain healthy bottom lines.


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