Review – Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes

Updated: Jul 6, 2019

Failing Forward” is a book whose fundamental premise is that there are no failures, just learning experiences. This book talks about the change in mindset needed to accept and learn from failures. To make it more concrete, the author introduces a few action items that one can use to learn to fail forward.  This book is aimed at a general audience.

The fundamental ideas in this book are summarized below

  1. Failure is all in the mind

  2. There is a very thin line separating success and failure

  3. People who learn from “failures” become achievers

I have posted the excerpts below. The author has expanded on each of the points below and give a lot of examples/stories which elucidate that particular point.

If you haven’t read self-help books, this book is worth a read. On the other hand, experience readers might not derive too much value from this book.

I was excited when I started reading this book given its high rating on Goodreads. Now that I have finished it, I feel that I have been oversold on its merits. The book felt like reading a long 200 page “Reader’s Digest” magazine and that is damning in my eyes. Ultimately, this book falls prey to the most common problem that other self-help books have – only people who want to change, will change and reading this book is not going to change your feelings one way or the other.



Redefining Failure & Success

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.

  1. Train for failure vs training for success

Learn a new definition of failure

  1. Failures are not avoidable

  2. Failures are not specific events

  3. Failure is not objective

  4. Failure is not an enemy

  5. Failure is reversible

  6. Failure is not a stigma

  7. Failure is not final

  8. It’s all in how you look at it and learn.

Remove the “you” from failure

  1. Think of it as a failed attempt; you are not a failure

  2. Failures are temporary & isolated; look at the bigger picture

  3. Examine your expectations from an area that you have consistently failed on

  4. Find new ways to do your work

  5. Focus on your strengths

  6. Vow to bounce back

Take action and reduce fear

  1. Don’t personalize fear

  2. Prior negative experiences leads to a fear of failure. This leads to inaction which leads to inexperience. This culminates in an inability to perform an action, which feeds back into the fear.

  3. Fear of failure stops forward progress. People tend to be paralyzed, procrastinate or do not have purpose.

  4. Break this fear by not denying it, but by performing the action anyway. This will break the fear cycle and you will gather momentum towards succeeding in that activity.

Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility

  1. If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.

  2. People react to failure by getting angry, lying about it, doing it the same way again and again, and by giving up.

  3. Autobiography in 5 short chapters

  4. Chapter 1 – I walk down a street. I do not see a hole. I fall into it. I am lost. I am helpless. It is not my fault. It takes me a long time to get out

  5. Chapter 2 – I walk down the street. I pretend not to see the hole. I fall into it. I can’t believe I am in the same place again but it is not my fault. It takes me a long time to get out

  6. Chapter 3 – I walk down the street. I see the hole but I still fall into it. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

  7. Chapter 4 – I walk down the street. I see the hole. I walk around it.

  8. Chapter 5 – I walk down a different street to get to where I want.

Do You Mind Changing Your Mind?

Don’t let failure from outside get you

  1. Failure/success are states of mind

  2. A positive attitude works wonders

Say goodbye to yesterday

Change yourself and the world changes

Get over yourself and start giving yourself

  1. Stop focusing on yourself

  2. Stop taking yourself too seriously

  3. Start adding value to others continually

  4. Put others in your thinking first

  5. Find out what others need

  6. Meet the need with excellence and generosity

Embracing Failure as a Friend

Find the benefit in every experience

  1. Adversity creates resilience

  2. Adversity develops maturity

  3. Adversity helps to push the envelope

  4. Adversity provides greater opportunities

  5. Adversity prompts innovation

  6. Adversity reaps unexpected benefits

  7. Adversity motivates

If you succeed, try something harder

Learn from a bad experience and make it a good experience

Increase the Odds for Your Success

Work on the weakness that weakens you

  1. Poor people skills

  2. A negative attitude

  3. A bad fit

  4. Lack of focus

  5. A weak commitment

  6. An unwillingness to change

  7. A shortcut mindset

  8. Relying on talent alone

  9. A response to poor information

  10. No goals

Understand there’s not much difference between success and failure

  1. The power of persistence

  2. Find a purpose

  3. Eliminate excuses

  4. Develop incentives

  5. Cultivate determination

Get up, get over it, get going

  1. Finalize your goal

  2. Order your plans

  3. Risk falling by taking action

  4. Welcome mistakes

  5. Advance based on your character

  6. Reevaluate your progress continually

  7. Develop new strategies to succeed


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