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Embracing Failure: Why We Shy Away But Shouldn’t

This content was originally featured in the December 6th, 2023 newsletter found here: Embracing Failure

A couple weeks ago, I started the conversation about how we only sort of talk about failure. And then I asked you to help me understand why we are so cagey about it. We are comfortable talking about failure at a high level when there is a clear resolution. But we don’t go beyond that surface level.

You came through. You responded. I heard some very strong themes: lack of control, ego, lack of self-awareness, perception of competency, and exposure of weakness. Let’s dive into each and see if we can’t come up with some solutions.

Lack of Control

We love to feel in control – of our careers, businesses, and lives. Admitting failure feels like admitting that not everything is in our power. But here’s the catch: failure is often where learn the most valuable lessons. It’s where we find the resilience to adapt and innovate. Embracing failure means embracing growth, and growth is rarely within our full control. Let’s start acknowledging that we don’t have nearly as much control as we think we do.


Even the most humble of person has an ego. Our egos can be fragile. Admitting failure can feel like admitting defeat. Admitting defeat can be a direct hit to our self-esteem. But there’s an incredible strength in vulnerability. A super power. Being honest about our shortcomings doesn’t diminish our achievements; it humanizes them. In the age of generative AI, being even more human is necessary. We can be proud of our accomplishments and admit our mistakes. They are not mutually exclusive.

Lack of Self-Awareness

Sometimes, we don’t talk about failure simply because we don’t recognize it. In world of business and analytics, or even in our own busy lives, taking a step back to reflect isn’t always a priority. Regular self-reflection is crucial. This is hard to do and an even harder habit to build. A good first step is journaling. No one is asking you to write a novel. You don’t even need a physical journal. Take five minutes at the end of every day and acknolwedge what went well and what didn’t work. Over time you’ll be able to dig deeper into the things that didn’t work because they will be more top of mind. Don’t miss opportunities to learn because you’re not paying attention.

Perception of Competency

We often worry that admitting failure will make us seem incompetent. Being judged is scary. Being judged by our peers is even scarier. But pretending to be infallible is just that, pretend. We all fail. True competency includes the ability to learn from mistakes and the courage to discuss them openly. This transparency fosters a culture of trust and continuous improvement, both in ourselves and in our teams.

Exposure of Weakness

There’s a common misconception that acknowledging failure is akin to showcasing weakness. I’ve had teams and staff try to hide mistakes out of fear of exposure. You can probably guess what happened. Instead of dealing with the issue, it only got bigger and deeper. I’ll admit, it takes considerable strength to say, “I messed up, but here’s what I’m doing about it.” But this is the key, as long as you have a proposed solution, right or wrong, people very quickly forget about this failure. Most of us are eager to move on and get things done. You failed? Ok, what’s next?

Use Failure as a Stepping Stone

Speaking of getting things done, let’s collectively shift our mindset. Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of it. When we talk about our failures, we create a culture that values learning and resilience instead of perfection. We allow for transparency and trust. We create a space where we grow, not just as professionals but as individuals.

The path to success starts with lessons from our failures. Embrace it, learn from it, and most importantly, talk about it. You’ll quickly find out that you’re not alone!

Have you had an experience where acknowledging a failure led to a significant learning moment? Share your story with me – let’s learn together. Reply to this email, or join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers (

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Trust Insights ( is one of the world's leading management consulting firms in artificial intelligence/AI, especially in the use of generative AI and AI in marketing. Trust Insights provides custom AI consultation, training, education, implementation, and deployment of classical regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI, especially large language models such as ChatGPT's GPT-4-omni, Google Gemini, and Anthropic Claude. Trust Insights provides analytics consulting, data science consulting, and AI consulting.

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