The Acidic Taste of Failure

Sometimes you try to achieve things with all that you’ve got, and then you fail. Some say failure is good, that it teaches you what not to do, etc., etc.

I agree, failing is part of the process of learning how to win. But I never like failing, particularly when I feel like it happened on my watch because of choices I made.

I can feel the acid burning my gut. I always hate failure.

Last week I experienced such a failure. It wasn’t on a public project, so let’s not read too much into things. Nevertheless, I failed. What made it worse was that I felt really good about the situation, rehearsed and worked hard, and put in extra time to get ready.

When it was show time, the effort flew like a lead zeppelin.

It was so obvious that I was dead in the water from the get-go, and I had to finish the job. If the situation was a baseball game, the opposition had a 10-run first inning. No escape for three hours. Done and done. Good night.

At least I am laughing about it a week later.

Nevertheless, it bugged me. Looking back there were mistakes like a critical flaw in evaluating my audience. A big disconnect occurred. Plus, I was exhausted and that didn’t help anything.

So, I did what I always do when I fail. I got back up the next day, and started working on the next big thing, which is planning the 2014 edition of xPotomac (Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke are joining me again as co-hosts this year).

Because that’s what I do. I get back up.


It’s important to take away what I can from the mistakes, adapt so next time there is different outcome, and work towards the next success. Maybe I’ll experience a win, maybe a different failure, but always move a step closer to the solution.

I also took the necessary time to rest. Self-care remains one of the best ways to overcome failure. There is always more work, and sometimes I just have to put it on the backburner. If I treat myself like crap, I will surely feel and perform like crap, too.

But no matter what, failures still burn, some more than others. That’s what makes winning all the more worthwhile. Call it fuel.

How do you handle failures?

Featured image by Mike Stimpson.


  • I am in the midst of a big fail right now and trying to slog my way through it. Sometimes you just have to give in before you can get out, right?!

  • I feel you, Geoff. I’ve been working my ass off trying to grow my big project and am always trying new things and testing to see what works best. What I’m finding now is that projects I failed at in the past are NOT working within this much larger one when I “knew” they would be a good addition this time. The timing is either off or the market is blah, blah, blah. I, like you, know that we just need to keep pushing forward, though. And yes, it does taste pretty damn bad.

    I will say this, you HAVE to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Even if it means just unplugging for a day or a weekend. You are no good to yourself, much less others when you are fizzling out.

    • Yeah, the self-care thing is an on again, off again issue that I need to watch closely. Glad to hear I am not alone!

  • Interesting Geoff… I’m learning at this stage of my life that behaviour and people drive business. Understanding the reasons we make the decisions we do is critical to overcoming barriers that hold us back on projects, life and business… All of it.

    But, until you get off the ‘doing the same things and expect different results’ hamster wheel, you fall down, pick yourself up, learn what you can and continue to plow through brick walls… I’m an ass-kicker, so that’s what I do :o

    Until one day you look in the mirror, discover and wholly embrace who you really are, and acquire the tools to be and do what you were born to do.

    Onward & upward, Sir!

    • And at the same time, life will present you the same situation over and over again until you conquer it. Thus there are no accidents. How long we decide to remain in purgatory is really a personal question..

  • Definitely feel you. My last big fail resulted in a book I just finished writing. Moved it to a professional editor this week. Yes, I’m prepared to broadcast my failure.

  • I had a class fail this summer, and now have 10 private clients where I once had 10 students using online content. I was convinced I should “start small” though my inner voice kept fighting me, at one point even saying “it’s too small.” A fabulous learning experience I could not have had otherwise, and I am on to bigger things.

  • How we respond to failure also affects our kids – they see how we react and learn from it. Personally, I like a glass of wine, and then I move on. ;-)

  • “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Thomas Wayne

  • Sorry to hear about this Geoff!

    And yet, it’s great to see the lessons you’ve learned from your experience, and I love this:

    “So, I did what I always do when I fail. I got back up the next day, and started working on the next big thing…., which is planning the 2014 edition… Because that’s what I do. I get back up.”

    For me, the sense of failure I have comes from falling short on several of the goals I set for myself for the year. While most days are reasonably productive, there are frankly some days where I experience something like an existential angst. On those days, it’s not about one failure in particular, but seems to be things in general.

    After reading you post, it occurred to me that things are really simpler than I’m making them. Thank you for reminding me to get back up!!

  • I get furious with failures. If I feel failure as it is happening, and it is happening “solo” like when writing or doing development, I’ll literally scream at inanimate objects.

    Close to 25 years in the professional world, and the passion still burns bright! Of course, try to maintain that level of “burning hot”, and I might have an aneurism! I’m working on being a little more calm.

    Otherwise, we share the same “never give up” attitude. If the situation can still be saved, I redouble my efforts. If it is a complete failure, then I adapt (perhaps with a few choice words, unfortunately) and start working towards the next success.

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