Three Ways to Fail Better


You make thousands of decisions every day, from the momentous to the mundane. Chances are, at some point, you’re going to screw one of them up.

Don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes. In fact, some studies suggest the base rate for bad decision making is as much as 50%. Unfortunately, when most of us are confronted with the news that we made a bad decision, we’re unwilling to admit our mistake. Instead, we argue, rationalize, and try to save face at the cost of time, resources, and the respect of our peers and employees. Here are three ways to fail better:


Some people respond to making mistakes with emotional displays, like the overheated spokesperson in this now infamous Winnebago commercial (the language in this video is super-NSFW, so put your headphones in). Take a breath, count to ten, and remember research shows people who remain cool-headed are more likely to recognize their mistakes and change course as needed.


Some people react to negative feedback with denial and deflection. They may refuse to recognize facts, ignore feedback, spin failure as success, or want to move on. Others are more likely to consider the facts, address their mistakes, and use the negative feedback to improve future decisions. Those who can accept negative feedback are better equipped to correct mistakes and improve future decision-making.


It can be difficult to accept negative feedback, especially when it’s coming from your peers or employees. Resist the urge to tune out all of your coworkers’ complaints, sideways comments, and Monday-morning quarterbacking. People who engage and internalize negative feedback are less likely to repeat their mistakes.

By keeping your cool, accepting blame, and internalizing feedback, you can make sure to maintain credibility through your failures, and to learn from and keep from repeating your mistakes. Want more information about how to improve your decision making impacts your career? Check out our free ebook, Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions.