The Value of Failure

The Value of Failure

It is better to try and fail than to have never tried at all. As cliché as this phrase sounds, it holds more meaning than you might initially think.
Failure is generally perceived as a negative result, which can cause feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration. If you can get past those feelings and look at a failure from an objective perspective and learn from it, failure can provide useful insights for future endeavors.

Mark Coopersmith was recently interviewed at UCSB as a part of the Distinguished Speakers Series. A large majority of his interview consisted of Mark explaining the “Failure Value Cycle” from his book, The Other “F” Word. This cycle is broken down into the following six steps.

1. Respect. Failure occurs a lot, and is a natural part of the learning process. You must learn to have respect for failure and realize it will inevitably happen when attempting to solve a novel problem.

2. Rehearse. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Thinking ahead and predicting the outcomes of your actions–both positive and negative–will allow you to have backup plans and other courses of action if unintended results occur.

3. Recognize. The most detrimental type of failure is the failure to recognize you have failed in the first place. The sooner you realize you have failed, the quicker you can react to solve the problem. Recognition is where most people stop the failure cycle because negative emotions prevent them from moving forward. The best way to combat these negative emotions is to have faith in your abilities to work through the rest of the cycle.

4. React. If you have properly rehearsed for this or a similar type of failure, this step is straightforward. Come up with a solution to fix the resulting problem by analyzing what caused the failure. This step takes the most work, but will allow you to attack the problem from a different angle.

5. Reflect. Think about what caused the failure and how your solution will play out. After attempting to fix the issue, you should now be able to view the original problem with a more transparent view.

6. Rebound. This step is all about transitioning from defense to offense. Take action and implement your solution.

7. Remember. Record your process as you progressed through the cycle so that you do not make the same mistake again. Remembering a failure and solution will also allow you to solve similar problems in the future.


If this new solution does not remediate your failure or if it even exacerbates the problem, do not give up. The “Failure Value Cycle” is called a cycle for a reason. Begin the cycle again with your new failure in mind and strive to solve the problem.
Many entrepreneurs and problem-solvers struggle with deciding when is a good time to give up and try something else. Continue seeking a solution to a problem until you can no longer gain new insights. Only give up on a problem when you no longer learn from your failures.

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