How to Succeed by Trying to Fail

Sometimes the best route to success is along the path that leads to failure.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #502

image of businessman failing to jump hurdles

We all have things that we’d like to accomplish in our lives, but some things are so scary we just don’t do them. Whether it’s asking that special someone to the high school dance or jumping on the Karaoke stage during the office holiday party, or actually singing once you’re on the Karaoke stage...sometimes we just can’t force our bodies to do the darn thing. Why? Because we just don’t want to? Not exactly!

Actually, we’re terrified of failure, but we’re not going to let anyone know about that. I’m sure that you, dear listener, aren’t afraid of anything. So today’s tip is just for you to pass on to your friends who might have fears that they need to get over. To make yourself—oops, I mean themselves—do the things you’re—I mean they’remost afraid of, start collecting failures.

How to Play the No Game

Collecting failures is easy! Some people are really good at it. But we’re going to do it methodically.

First, choose a goal you’ve had for a long time, but have been avoiding due to fear. Thomas, Europa’s teenage son, is discovering that coming to grips with his cybernetic side is not easy. He’s in the denial stage, throwing himself into his human side as hard as he can. And what could be more human than pursuing his life-long dream of being a stand-up comedian?

Thomas is terrified. He’s sure he isn’t funny enough to entertain people. Yes, his mother/creator may be the secret overlord of the Eastern Bloc, but that just makes it harder. There, any form of humor is considered a political thought crime.

Flip Your Goal on its Head

Thomas is going for his goal. But when fear rears its ugly, slobbering head, going for the goal won’t work. Instead, go for failure. Explicitly.

Thomas’s new goal? To get boo’d off every stage in the Eastern Bloc. He signs up for every Open Mic Night he can. Because if he can perform and fail with gusto in front of dozens of audiences who have No Sense of Humor, he wins. Either he meets his goal to collect Boos, or he meets his goal of finally learning how to deliver the Svetlana-and-the-pierogie joke that he’s been working on since age seven. Thomas’s plan to collect failures is actionable and simple. Yours should be too.

Like most things, failing is more fun with a friend! So if you can’t find an expert to teach you how to jump into something, find someone who’s as much of a newbie as you and fail together. For moral support, Thomas convinces his friend Sam to sign up too. Like Thomas, Sam dreams of the life of a stand-up comic, but hasn’t had the courage to pursue it.

Use Competition to Turbo-charge the Failure Game


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.