Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 07/23/2018: Failure Leading to Success by Matt Fizell



“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 again. That is why I succeed.”

-Michael Jordan


We’ve all been there before… Whether it is coming up short on a personal goal like retirement or taking a vacation, failing to land the job we interviewed for or not getting the promotion we expected, not getting a passing score on an exam, we all have our failures. The thought of failing is always in the back of our minds and as human beings our brain has a natural instinct to protect us from pursuing the possibilities of improving our lives. The truth is, without failure we will never be able to succeed and some of the most successful people we hear about in the news are just really good at failing.  If you have ever let a failure hold you back from trying again, this is the article for you!

Before jumping into “how does failure lead to success”, I want to share a personal story of mine. Back in November of 2016, I was scheduled to sit for my first attempt of the prestigious Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam. Leading up to this, I had spent the past 3 months studying and investing well over $1,000 in a review class.  I was fairly confident heading into the testing center, after all... I graduated from a CFP Accredited program, took the review course, and had been working as a financial planner, what could go wrong?  After nearly 6 hours of sitting in front of a computer screen crunching numbers, I was greeted with the “Sorry, your results are below the satisfactory levels for CFP Certification”, and my heart sank into my stomach.

As you can probably imagine, I felt incredibly alone in this experience and I knew there would be a plethora of “How did your exam go?” texts, calls, and emails from my family, friends, and co-workers in the coming days. Rather than saying “the exam was incredibly difficult and unfair”, I decided to take the approach of “I just need to try harder next time”. Of course it meant more time, more effort, and more money to achieve my goal, but this time I followed the study book to the letter, asking more questions to my instructors and completing countless practice problems, ultimately leading to a successful attempt this past March.  

So what are the keys to success after failing you can take away from my experience?

  1. Understand what success looks like to you (or your family).  What are the goals you would never stop fighting for, no matter what gets in the way?

  2. When you hit a setback, understand why the setback happened. For my first exam attempt, I realized the time I put in was on the lower end of the spectrum for an expected passing attempt.

    1. Didn’t get the job or promotion? Rather than “I didn’t really want the job anyways”, think about “What can I do between now and my next interview to make sure this doesn’t happen again”. Perhaps further research on the company, taking on additional projects, or finding a role more suitable to your skill set.

    2. Not enough money for retirement, college, or that next family vacation? Rather than “We didn’t have time to work out the finances”, find ways to stabilize your budget, find a “side hustle” or additional part-time work, and set a timeline for when you will complete your goal.

  3. Get help from others!  Everyone has failed at some point in their life.  Seeking advice from someone who has what you are striving for is always a great idea.  You may be shocked to find they shared the same struggles you are currently facing.

The most rewarding part of my career as a financial planner is helping others shift from a place of “not enough” to “we can do this”.  Sure the journey isn’t always easy or perfectly clear, but what fun is life without a little adventure?

Here are a couple of my favorite TED Talks on the subject of linking failures to success:

Rethinking Failure from Barbara Corcoran, co-host of NBC’s Shark Tank:

My Story: Winning by Losing from Bobby Bones, National Radio Host.  If you enjoy this talk, I highly recommend his book “Fail Until You Don’t: Fight, Grind, Repeat”