Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 26, 2012

In Praise of Failure

Filed under: career development,success — Paul McCord @ 12:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

In today’s politically correct world the idea there’s no such thing as failure has become so popular that it’s a staple of motivational speakers; sports leagues make sure that every kid feels like a success by giving each a participation trophy; schools teach kids that they didn’t fail, they just weren’t as successful as some other students; and some companies even make sure that every employee, even the biggest screw up, gets a reward for something.

Failure has become a forbidden, four-letter word; one that some think should be purged from the English language, for failure, they believe, destroys ego and can permanently damage the fragile psyche of a kid—or salesperson.  The very word destroys lives.

As a result we have today people entering the workforce who have never failed because they’ve been told that by simply showing up and breathing they’ve succeeded.  Many of these new members of the workforce rudely discover that failure is very much a reality—but instead of taking responsibility for their failure and learning from it, they find a million reasons why it was someone or something else’s fault.

Worse, society reinforces the idea that we cannot fail; we are told it isn’t our fault, instead we are victims of circumstance beyond our control.  We didn’t fail; we were victims.

Teaching the non-existence of failure is one of the most despicable things we can do to someone, as we are setting them up to be devastated when they are eventually confronted with the reality of the consequences of their failure.

The reality is, to put a little twist on a Gordon Gekko line: Failure is Good.

Failure only becomes negative when one accepts it as an end in itself, for there is a huge difference between failure and being a failure—one teaches, the other destroys.

Only through failure can we understand and appreciate success.

Only through failure can we grow.

Only through failure can we be molded into the success we want to be.

Failure is our teacher, our disciplinarian, our coach, and our goal setter.

Although training and coaching combined with time and effort are keys to obtaining the skills needed to become successful, they are in and of themselves insufficient to create a successful person.

If we think of training and coaching as the anvil that the hammer of time and effort beats us against to shape us, the hammering would be useless without the fire of failure to heat us to the point that we can be molded into a success.

If you want to become a success, get to know failure well and gladly take responsibility for it and accept its lessons.  Forget the silly PC denial of reality that failure doesn’t exist.  Instead embrace it as a key ingredient in your current and future success.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord



  1. We must fall to learn to walk. Love the visual imaginary about hammer of time and fire of failure –

    Great post to start a week –

    Leanne Hoaglang-Smith

    Comment by thecoachlee — February 27, 2012 @ 6:41 am | Reply

  2. Couldn’t agree more – great post!

    A real life example can be found here –

    Comment by Karl Parry (@KarlParry) — February 27, 2012 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  3. […] while it shouldn’t be a goal, failure certainly can help lead one on to success. Take a look at his article here, and feel free to come back and share your thoughts! Sales, Selling ← Newspapers Face […]

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  4. […] from sales professionals around the web this past week.-Paul McCord advises sales professionals to embrace the possibility of failure-Friend of the blog Dan Waldschmidt gives you 10 reasons why outrageous customer service is all that […]

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  5. […] In Praise of Failure ( 27.773056 -82.640000 Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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  6. Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming. Jim Rohn

    Comment by Eimear Serious — March 6, 2012 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

  7. […] In Praise of Failure ( […]

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  8. Nice read !

    Comment by Greg — March 7, 2012 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  9. Well put. Also loved the analogy. Failure is not the end of the road, it is the beginning of another exciting and challenging journey for all of us. Just take a look at Michael Jordan. Many times this man was entrusted to take the game-winning shot but missed, resulting to his team to lose. He failed several times but that is also the reason why he and his team succeeded. We may have failures in life too, but like Jordan, we too can win, if we won’t let failure derail us.

    Comment by Judy Caroll — March 14, 2012 @ 1:30 am | Reply

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