Pay VERY Close Attention to Your Failures – They Hold the Keys to Your Success

We've all been told a dozen platitudes about failure. For example, that it's not about how often you fall, but how often you pick yourself back up.

This is technically true, but if all you do after a fall is pick yourself back up and keep going, you're missing out on possible the most powerful learning tool at your disposal...

If you've been frustrated because you constantly have ambitious goals and you constantly fall short of them, the strategy I'm sharing with you today might just change all that.


The most important lessons we won't find in a book or a course or some guru's advice. We'll find them in our past failures.

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The Implementation Problem

A person has a goal and a plan and seemingly everything they need to follow the plan and reach the goal. But then they don't.

I call this the implementation problem. It's when you have the means and the information, but you just don't implement, for some reason.

The implementation problem is the ultimate problem of the information age and its citizens (by that I mean: those lucky enough to be able to access information and not caught up in an existential struggle). Since you're reading this blog post right now, that means you're probably one of those lucky information age citizens.

If you can solve the implementation problem, the world's your oyster!

Stop Turning Away

I'm fascinated by how we fail. When we suffer from the implementation problem it's not the kind of "it was too hard for me" failure. It's a kind of failure that feels a bit shameful. We make plans, we make new year's resolutions or whatever... and then we just abandon our goals. For no good reason. Not because we underestimated the challenge. Not because we tried our best and gave up exhausted. We just kind of... stop.

This happens to all of us. And the mistake we make when this happens is that we turn away in shame. We don't want other people to know that we did this. It feels so weak of us to have failed like this. In fact, we don't even want ourselves to know, so we go into denial as quickly as possible. We try not to think of that time we were excited about a new goal and were sure we'd make it this time... only to give up shortly after.

My best advice for you is to stop turning away from this kind of failure. Instead, become really, really interested in it.

If you can deconstruct your failure. If you can take a really close look at it, try to retrace everything that happened - as if you were watching a slow-motion replay - you'll find the keys to your future success.

In my previous videos, I talked about the importance of combining productivity with strategy and how developing self-awareness will help you create a better strategy.

This here is another ingredient. It's a "how to" for that self-awareness part. If you want to develop the kind of awareness and strategic insight that will be most useful for making yourself more productive, this is what you need to focus on. Dissect your failures and see them as an opportunity to get to know yourself better. To become better.

Be Extraordinary

You know what I love about this? It's something most people don't do. It's uncomfortable. It's unconventional.

Think about how few people are actually pursuing personal and entrepreneurial growth to begin with. And now think about how many of those follow the advice of rah-rah, always-positive, look-at-this-new-shiny-object gurus.

Think of how few people are able or willing actually do something slightly uncomfortable like taking a deep look at their own failures. And then turning what they discover there into a strategy.

I love this because it's an extraordinary and rare thing to do. I've always sought out the extraordinary and rare thing. It's worked out well for me so far. I hope it will serve you, too.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment!

Shane's Signature

P.S.: if you've been following my content on productivity, you've probably noticed that it's not exactly your typical, mainstream, regurgitated productivity advice. If you like that and you want to deepen your learning, give my course a look.

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Jane Fox says:

    Hey Shane, as always excellent advice. I recently “bellied up to the bar” and took a marketing course. It was excellent and I became quite stoked and anxious to get started.

    That was until the rubber hit the road and I needed to put in the hours and hours and hours to get to where I needed to be.

    Well I did put in the hours and along the way learned a ton but my outcome was not what I expected so back to the drawing board and more hours and more learning.

    One thing I have taken away from this all is you need help. You need a mentor/coach to help you through some of this.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jane!

      A good coach can certainly make a big difference. I think it’s not easy to find someone who’s really good, though.

  • Beatriz says:

    Hi Shane, I’d like to share what are my thoughts:

    (P.S. English is not my first language.)

    I’ve noticed a pattern that happens:

    Obviously we can block distractions, but we can not isolate ourselves to the point where we can not be accessed.

    Imagine: we are in a state of motivation reaching the tasks planned for a quarter…

    Suddenly, something pops up in front of us and prevents us from completing the tasks we are doing…

    This unexpected event takes us away from the work that we are doing to another types of tasks that we are not emotionally ready to do but we are forced to begin and finish in order to solve the emergency that sometimes takes some days to solve because most of the tasks we depend on others for the execution.
    Is this a milestone ?

    That even that came as a surprise, makes a energy imbalance that takes a few days to recover and an effort not only of willpower but a metabolic state conducive to plunging back to the point where we was previously.

    Due to situations like this, some plans fail and need to be postponed.

    We also need to take into account all the other things that going on at the same time.

    In relation to all the books and courses we buy in big quantity and often we do not use, most times it’s for the momentary pleasure of consuming, to buy not to miss the opportunity of the moment for having found, in the hope that someday we will have time to find in them the solution to what we leave to solve when we have time, later.

    • You’re absolutely right: we make plans and then life gets in the way. And this is actually a great example of how we fail again and again, in the same way. We make a plan and we think “this time, everything is going to go perfectly” and then it doesn’t. Some unexpected event interrupts us, we give up.

      Soon later, we start a new thing and think “this time, everything is going to go perfectly”…

      The truth is, it’s not going to go perfectly. If the plan requires everything to be smooth sailing, then the plan has failure built right into it. And by analyzing our past failures, we can recognize this pattern and make a change. Make a better system, which has some buffers for unexpected events built in. Plan for things to go wrong.

      Regarding books and stuff and the pleasure of consuming: I agree with you and I don’t think it’s a mistake to buy something and then not make full use of it. I buy more books than I read, too.

      But let’s consider the big picture. For me, the big picture is that I buy more books (about business and life optimization) than I read and I don’t fully take action on every one of them. But overall, my life and business have improved dramatically and consistently over the last 10+ years. Buying these books (and reading them, and implementing) are expressions of my desire to become a better entrepreneur and a better person. And overall, I’m making good progress on those goals.

      The video I published here is meant to address a different problem, which I think many people suffer from. The problem where, just like me, someone buys books and stuff and those purchases express a desire to reach some goal. But the big picture is that that person keeps buying, keeps wishing, keeps dreaming, but makes no real progress towards those goals. It’s the ultimate consumer model made real: a consumer who buys things to try and solve a problem, but never solves the problem, so they can perpetually keep buying things. That’s a problem I want to help people solve.

  • Richard Bennett says:

    Thanks for this Shane,

    All the time growing up, I was told “If you cannot do something right, do not bother trying it!” 60 years later, I still struggle.

    I printed off 2 items and have them posted in fairly easy site, one is: ‘Dare To Be Average’ and the other: ‘Dare To Make A Mistake’

    Between those 2 and I cannot remember who stated this, “If you have not succeeded, you have not failed enough” I am gradually learning to accept errors and to seek assistance, do more research.

    These videos help a lot.

    Richard Bennett

    • Oh wow, that’s a horrible thing to pass on to a child. I’m sorry to hear this was done to you.

      Recommendation: read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I think you might find that useful.

  • Mary Grisolia says:

    Hi Shane. Thanks a lot for this video, it was very reaffirming for a perfectionist, failure-is-not-an-option person like me. What you said actually made me remember a study I read not long ago, about how reflecting on our own failures was a key to future success. Here’s the link in case you hadn’t seen it and are interested:

    I’m on your focus & action course and I’m running behind, but loving it so far and I’m in the ‘this time I’ll do it!’ phase. I’m working hard and very counciously about not letting go. Thanks for all this :)

  • Ellie Strand says:

    Shane, I love your vlogs. They are always helpful and informative.

    I know my failure to complete is due to my chronic illness (ME/CFS). I get physically and mentally exhausted if I work too hard at something and then nothing makes sense. This crash/relapse can last for weeks and I never recover to where I was before the crash but plateau on a step below.

    I have a landing page and lead magnet almost completed, but I have trouble understanding how to integrate them into a website. I’m still recovering and just can’t wrap my brain around it right now.

    After watching this video I identified a solution almost immediately–pace myself so I don’t have as many (possibly any more?) crashes.

    Thanks for the pep talk. :)

    • It sure sounds like that is a critical priority for you, yes. Also, you could maybe benefit from collaboration and delegation to a greater degree than most people. You are in a situation where you have to be very careful about how you spend your time and be very careful not to strain yourself too much.

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