logo 12min

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

    logo 12min

    Failing Forward Summary

    5 min read ⌚ 

    Failing Forward SummaryTurning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success

    Not many people like to admit this but failing is an essential part of success. And “essential” means that you can’t be successful unless you fail before that. It may seem oxymoronic, but it’s anything but.

    At least so says John C. Maxwell – and he is our go-to guy for questions related to leadership and success. From now on, failing backward is not an option. Because there’s also such thing as “Failing Forward.”

    Who Should Read “Failing Forward”? And Why?

    On its cover, “Failing Forward” features a telling blurb: “A New York bestselling author addresses everyone’s greatest need.” OK – it may not be everyone’s greatest need in itself, but “how to overcome failure” is certainly a question everybody has asked himself at least once or twice a life.

    If so, you can do worse then hearing some worse of wisdom from a leadership expert. And probably you can’t do much better if you’re an ambitious person or a perfectionist.

    About John C. Maxwell

    John C. MaxwellJohn C. Maxwell is by acclamation the foremost authority on leadership in the world. He is the founder of EQUIP and the eponymous John Maxwell Company.

    He has written over 40 books, which have jointly sold about 20 million copies. And we have written summaries about most of them. In other words – please, be our guest: “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” “Leadership Gold,” “The 360o Leader,” “The Five Levels of Leadership,” “Talent Is Never Enough,” “Put Your Dream to the Test,” and “Thinking for a Change”.

    “Failing Forward Summary”

    Statistics – and John C. Maxwell – point to one fascinating fact: almost every successful person you know now was a failure at one point in his life.

    Because, failure is not the opposite of success; it’s an indispensable ingredient. In fact, you could say that successful people are on the top because they’ve failed more and better than the rest of the people.

    Or, to be more illustrative even if that means borrowing a quote we’ve already used in another summary: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

    In fact, there’s even a number!

    On average, an entrepreneur will fail 4 times (3.8 to be more exact) before he finally does it. And some of these fails may be spectacular fiascos.

    Take, for example, Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola’s marketing executive in the 1980s. He was the man responsible behind the Diet Coke. And because of its immense success, he convinced Coca-Cola executives to stop producing the old version when he introduced the “New Coke.”

    “New Coke” was a fiasco and cost the company $100 million, and Zyman his job. But then, when Coca-Cola reintroduced the old version under a new name, “Coca Cola Classic,” it was such a success that Zyman got his job back, and the company its money.

    Even creative geniuses can’t always be right. But, their failures open new opportunities.

    Such was the case with Thomas Edison. He wanted to improve the telegraph. He failed. But, along the way, he discovered the gramophone.

    “A man of genius makes no mistakes,” wrote James Joyce. “His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

    The point is that many of your failures are actually not your fault; all of your successes, however, are your responsibility. Roger Crawford, for example, wanted to become a tennis player, but he was born with a disability. Even so, he managed to overcome it.

    Learn from his example the next time something bad and uncontrollable happens to your business. Face the obstacle with an attitude of a winner!

    And that attitude is, actually, the attitude of a knower and an optimist.

    Because, excepting that failures would turn into successes by themselves is the definition of stubbornness. What’s so good about failures is the lessons you can take out from them for your next endeavor.

    Because, the Dalai Lama would say, that’s exactly how we learn best. You can think about it in this manner: after a failure, you’ll know at least one more thing you shouldn’t do.

    We’ll describe the second element of the attitude of a successful person through a handy little anecdote.

    Once upon a time, there lived two people who, after a series of unfortunate events, ended up in an almost underground prison. Through the prison bars, they could see the ground and a small patch of the sky. This depressed one of the two prisoners: what he saw through the bars was mud and mud only.

    The other felt something altogether different. Because there, on that little patch of sky, he could see the stars. And he was the one who made it.

    You don’t think that the story makes any sense?

    Just ask Viktor Frankl if there was any other way to survive the Holocaust.

    Key Lessons from “Failing Forward”

    1.      Failures Are Portals of Discovery
    2.      Turn Your Failures into Life Lessons
    3.      So, You Failed…

    Failures Are Portals of Discovery

    One of the greatest favors you can do yourself is redefining the word “failure.”


    Because, if you’re serious about success, failures will inevitable appear along your way. If you think of them as something final, then you’ve never really understood them. A child has to fall many times before it learns how to walk.

    An entrepreneur, on average, has to establish 4 failed businesses before founding the multi-million-dollar company. You really think Twitter hatched out of nothing?

    Think again.

    Turn Your Failures into Life Lessons

    The most important life lessons you’ll ever learn are failures. Someone else’s or your own.

    Concerning the former – read books such as “Failing Forward” and look for other inspiring failure stories. Concerning the latter – try to find a way to learn something from a failure.

    An example straight out of Charlie Brown:

    If you’re building a sand castle and the tide destroys it, there’s a lesson somewhere in there, right?

    Find it!

    So, You Failed…

    We’ll quote a Nobel Prize Literature winner so you can really remember the most important lesson from this book: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter./ Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    For the ones who think that we’re a bit pretentious, here’s one pop-reference we like:

    “So, you failed. Alright, you really failed… You failed… You wanna be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you’re still smiling.”

    Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

    “Failing Forward” Quotes

    In life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you are going to deal with your problems. If the possibility of failure were erased, what would you attempt to achieve? Click To Tweet The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you're going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success. Click To Tweet Achievers are given multiple reasons to believe they are failures. But in spite of that, they persevere. The average for entrepreneurs is 3.8 failures before they finally make it in business. Click To Tweet Procrastination is too high a price to pay for fear of failure. To conquer fear, you have to feel the fear and take action anyway. Forget motivation. Just do it. Act your way into feeling, not wait for positive emotions to carry you… Click To Tweet Handicaps can only disable us if we let them. If you are continually experiencing trouble or facing obstacles, then you should check to make sure that you are not the problem. Click To Tweet

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is S97jQHmAduTE-2W4hn5k-Oyzm6WGfZWR43av3dBG_Ln-GUxWcIDhTEpQcZXgggG5XRhhpT0CDC7aiNHa_wD80aP5ZWHyWRHVVrTGgZiYBRXQve5CDD1Yc8XC2lE5cVwczTvF3BFFenrlUuksMg

    Our Critical Review

    Unsurprisingly (if you have read anything else by its author), “Failing Forward” is a triumph. (Or, to quote Borat, a “great success”.) It’s well-structured and finely written, and it is filled with inspirational anecdotes and real-life examples to support the theoretical framework.

    In other words, you’ll close the book all pumped up and ready for another round. But, most of all, by the end of it, you might just learn how to cope with your failures.

    Scroll to Top