Accepting Failure On The Pathway To Success

We are surrounded by overnight success stories.

TV features, weekend magazines and social media posts constantly promote perfect individuals that have achieved amazing success.

These entrepreneur’s stories appear flawless and they seem to have experienced one success after another.

It can often lead to business owners feeling like under-achievers.

But what the feature articles on success don’t talk about are the failures on the journey.

It is critical to pause and objectively assess the role of accepting failure on the pathway to success.

Developing a healthy relationship with failure is one of the foundational attributes of any entrepreneur.

Anyone can deal with success. But accepting we’ve failed and knowing what to do about is key.

We must measure our activity and understand our success rate and fail rate.

How many approaches do we need to conduct to get to pitch?

How many pitches do we need to make to win a customer?

Knowing that our success rate on approaches is 1 in 5 means our success rate on winning the chance to pitch is 20% and the flip side is a failure rate of 80%.

Knowing that we win a customer once in very three pitches means our success rate is 33% with a failure rate of 67%.

Now it comes down to numbers and psychology.

The numbers say that we need to make 15 approaches to get 3 pitches from which we win 1 customer.

The psychology is influenced by whether you are predominantly a pessimist, optimist or a realist.

The pessimist focuses on the failure rate and says that you are unsuccessful because you missed out on 14 pitches before you won a customer, which is a failure rate of 93%. This is not a positive headspace to be in.

The optimist focuses on the success, and ignores the approaches, only looking at the 1 in 3 customer conversion from the pitches and thinks ‘how easy is this’ forgetting about the bandwidth and pre-pitch work in making the 15 approaches to pitch. This is not an accurate outlook.

The realist looks at the data to influence psychology and maps out the combined success/failure rate to arrive at the target. The target of new business revenue is simply extrapolated from the strike rate of new customers from approaches/pitches to arrive at the goal. Then a battery of business development activities is mapped out to yield the required number of approaches.

Success and failure in the context of the realist are mere input variables.

Now of course, you still need to measure your success/failure rates and improve conversion and yield from activity. However, you are now able to objectively assess needs versus outcomes.

In AFL football, a key metric measure is “inside 50’s” which records the number of times each team is able to get the ball inside their 50m forward zone. What doesn’t get talked about is that the conversion from “inside 50’s” on average is just 18%. That means that only 18 goals are kicked from every 100 offensive thrusts into the forward line. Amazing!

You don’t hear coaches, players or sports psychologists banging on about an 82% failure rate in converting goals from “inside 50’s”.

That would not be helpful.

What they do is focus on increasing the number of “inside 50’s” and the resultant efficiency in conversion.

They focus on the success in getting the ball “inside 50” and their efficiency in converting goals – not the failure rate.

They use the failure rate as an implicit variable not an explicit variable.

And this highlights the relationship you must establish with understanding failure.




Look at success and failure in the right context.

But adopt a constructive psychology in accepting that failure is inevitable and cannot be avoided.

Failure is but a temporary detour on the pathway to success.