You Fail Only If You Learn Nothing From the Experience

Members of my career mentoring site know that I am a big believer in the power of lifelong learning. They also know that I believe that setbacks and failures present great learning opportunities.  This rather academic article delves into the idea of how failure can lead to success…

As the title of this post suggests, you fail only if you learn nothing form the experience.  This means that when things don’t go your way, you need to get up, dust yourself off, figure out what happened, why and what you can learn from the experience.

In my classes on interviewing, I suggest that people follow my START model for answering questions…

S — Describe a situation.

T– Mention the task you were asked to perform in this situation.

A — Describe the action you took.

R — Describe the result.

T — Describe your takeaway — what you learned.

This works if you are answering the question, “Tell me about one of your biggest successes,” as well as a question like, “Tell me about a time when you failed.”

The key part of answering either of these two questions is the second T — your takeaway, what you learned.  It’s important to learn from all of your experiences.  When you succeed, you’ve done something right.  File away that information for use in the future.

However, when you fail, you really have an opportunity to learn and grow.  When you ask yourself, “What could I have done differently that would have created a more positive outcome in this situation?” you are on the road to learning to learning from your failure — and, as I’ve stated above, you haven’t failed if you’ve learned something.

There is an old saying, “Good judgment comes from experience.  Unfortunately, experience is usually the result of poor judgment.”  In other words, you will make mistakes.  Successful people learn from their mistakes.  I tell members of my career mentoring site that when you do something right the first time and then do it right a hundred more times, the value of that experience is negligible — you did it right the first time.  You might get a little better, a little more efficient, but you did it right the first time.

However, experience becomes helpful when you mess up.  Mess ups give you the opportunity to figure out what went wrong, and what you will do differently the next time.  That’s the value of experience — and a great demonstration of lifelong learning.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.


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