Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Why I Embrace "Failure"

Oftentimes, as Americans, we see how embedded the fear of "failure" is in our culture.

The fear of "failure" is the single greatest obstacle to success. It prevents us from taking action and pursuing our dreams.

We'll explore the reasons I have come to embrace "failure" in recent years, how it has dramatically changed the course of my life, and how it can change yours as well.

As I prefaced in my introduction above, the greatest obstacle to success is the fear of failure.

We first need to begin by redefining failure, and recognizing that an inability to capture success precisely when we want success doesn't necessarily constitute failure.

How many times have we seen people make New Year's resolutions or set goals only to give up on them, instead of reevaluating their situation, making small tweaks to their plan, and proceeding from that point?

This is more of what I would consider a set back. As Ross Perot stated years ago, "Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown."

Unfortunately, more times than I can recall. We need to understand that life is not this linear progression, but rather a journey of peaks and valleys.

Our success in life is merely the sum of our past successes and failures. The more one fails in life, the more they'll typically succeed as well. This is because as Michael Jordan put it, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

In my own case, I am aiming for FIRE by the age of 35. While some people would probably reprimand me, asking me of the consequences if I fail to achieve that goal, I see it in a completely different way.

If I don't reach my goal, the worst case scenario is that I come somewhat close, and I still eventually achieve financial independence, whereas most never will.

If I worried too much about the possibility of not reaching my goal, don't you think I would have never even made an attempt at achieving it?

But if I do achieve my goal, I have achieved something most people never manage to do precisely when most of my peers will be just approaching the prime of their careers. If it weren't for the fact the FI community has grown rapidly in recent years and people actually have achieved it, you would swear that's an insurmountable feat based upon reports from most of the mainstream financial media. 50 years ago this month we achieved an unprecedented feat by putting a man on the moon, so why the hell shouldn't I try to become financially independent?

There will come a day in all of our lives that we approach the end and we are left to take stock of our lives. The most painful thing we can live with in that moment is the regret of the path we didn't take because we were too scared to embark upon an uncertain journey with no guarantee of success. If you aren't making mistakes, you truly aren't living. Just remember that the legends make more mistakes than the rest of us, but it's for that reason they eventually triumphed and became legends.

Every goal that once seemed impossible, became a reality when the crazy dreamers ignored the criticisms and excuses of others, and they just did it.

Moving to the second point, mistakes or "failures" can actually be a great thing if it happens earlier in your life.

When you're first starting out as an investor, a bad investment is disappointing, but it becomes especially costly in absolute terms later in your life.

Take for instance the fact that 99.7% of Warren Buffett's wealth was built after the age of 52, and we begin to understand that mistakes become more costly as we age.

This is one of the two reasons why we should invest as early as possible.

Not only do we benefit more from the power of compound interest, but we also benefit from learnings from our mistakes of the past. When we apply those lessons in the present, it makes us less likely to commit those same mistakes in the future.

I equate this to the adage that you can fall behind by 20 in the first quarter of a basketball game, but you better not be behind 20 with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The further we progress in life, the more costly mistakes become in absolute terms, which is why we should aim to front load our mistakes.


In order for us to achieve success, we first need to start by acknowledging that just because things don't go our way, it doesn't mean we failed. You only fail when you give up and learn nothing from your mistakes.

The most painful thing anyone can say on their deathbed is "what if I had opened that business" or "what if I had climbed Mount Everest?" Well, you didn't, and now that will be the last thought on your mind as you take your last breath on Earth.

Because you can't learn everything you'll need to know from the mistakes of others, you should be as open to making mistakes in your early years as possible because it is only then you will gain the wisdom that comes with the pain of mistakes and the valleys in your life. As the John Michael Montgomery song states, "life's a dance, you learn as you go."

We only live once, so I believe it's our duty to make every day count. We can only do that by letting go of this notion of the fear of "failure."


Have you dismissed the fear of "failure?" If so, have you noticed a complete transformation in your mindset? As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to replying to any comments you may have.


  1. Good one. There no such thing as failure, it's actually a learning opportunity. That is what it simply is. If you would always succeed, you would never learn anything and that is just impossible. Besides, "success" feels much better after the grinding grinding.

    - Financial Nordic

  2. Financial Nordic,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Success without past mistakes certainly wouldn't feel the same as success after numerous attempts. Thanks for the comment.