Turning Failure into Success


No one likes to fail. It is our human nature to want to succeed — to make things work no matter what the cost. However, sometimes failing can be the best thing. It can lead to an unexpected outcome or help us discover important life lessons.

I was recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “The Tim Farris Show.” Farris explained that a common attribute of successful people is a cultivated ability to move through failure or view it differently, instead of simply giving up.

What can our failures teach us about life and ourselves?

For Farris, some of his biggest failures have led to success. For example, a few years ago he launched a TV show, “The Tim Farris Experiment.”  He put a great team of people in place and before signing on the dotted line, Farris conducted a number of analysis’. This included examining the worst case scenarios and a SWAT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Identifying the strengths he can leverage for the show, weaknesses he might need to compensate for by hiring other people, opportunities that could come of the show that he should be prepared for and threats.

After all of this analysis, Farris decided to go through with the show. After filming, they ran into a couple of issues related to distribution. People had trouble locating where the show was being broadcast, it bounced around from different networks and it was not on between any other program that would transfer audiences, so it was reliant on him driving traffic. Then the entire network division was shut down and the team of people he had worked with were replaced.

“We had this end product that we are proud of, but then the lights go out and no one can see it,” said Farris. “I had not thought about distribution challenges or staffing problems that could crop up. Those were two major blind spots. It doesn’t matter how great your product is if you can’t get it to people.”

Instead of simply accepting this failure, Farris found a way to work around these obstacles. “I ended up negotiating to license the program back and then launch it on iTunes, which was fantastic,” added Farris. “It was a huge blockbuster and did really well. It was the most successful non-fiction show to launch on iTunes at the time. But it took a long time to get that done.”

Farris’ creative thinking and determination turned this failure into a success, but most importantly he learned valuable lessons that informed future decisions. “I took my notes from that, and right now we are working on a new television show. I used many of the lessons from that show to make this new show a lot easier to film, produce and promote.”

So what can we learn from this? We will not always have successes in life, but it is important to try and find ways to turn your failures into success. And most important, as Farris said, do a post-game analysis of each failure. What was holding you back? What needs to evolve? What were your blind spots?

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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