Failure scares most people, and understandably so. It is painful and embarrassing and can seem to set us back on our heels. But elite athletes, business professionals, and Navy SEALs learn that there is really no such thing as failing at a task, project, or mission. It comes with putting yourself out there to pursue worthy but hard things. Sometimes, plans work, and sometimes, they don’t. So what, move on. However, one definite way to fall short is failing to learn from what does not work.
“Failure is not an option” was burned inside my mind in SEAL training. Rather than leaving failure open as an option, we plan for success but simultaneously mind-game what could go wrong. We prepare for a range of scenarios, some prettier than others, but we always keep the vision of an acceptable victory clearly cemented in our minds. In other words, we expect and practice in our minds a desired result without needing to know precisely how we will achieve it. In fact, we expect the unexpected and for it to be messy on the way. By planning for many outcomes, we are prepared for what to others would be seen as a failure.
Attitude and mindset frame every success. Instead of seeing something bad happening as wrong, you can learn to see it as an opportunity. You can switch strategies and tactics based on your lessons in real-time to reach the desired outcome. That is the outcome of applying Boyd’s OODA Loop (Observe what went wrong, Orient yourself to the new learning, Decide on a new strategy and tactics, and then Act). Ultimately, without risk, there is no reward. Therefore, embracing the idea that failure is entirely different from getting something wrong is essential.
Facing setbacks and adopting a “failure is not an option” and “fail forward fast” mindset is also crucial to personal growth and resilience. This accelerates your “growth mindset,” which is the belief that persevering and learning from life’s endless obstacles will improve your abilities and intelligence. Failing fast means you run towards the expected obstacles because you know they are your best opportunities for growth and learning. They never lead to defeat.
How to Fail Forward Fast Faster
Embrace Challenges: Welcome the inevitable challenges as opportunities for growth and to develop new skills and character traits. This first step to FFFF is to embrace failure as a natural and valuable part of the learning process. Stare down the fear of failure and learn to see obstacles as perfect opportunities to gather feedback, gain insights, and refine your approach. When you encounter a setback, acknowledge it without self-judgment and remind yourself that it’s a step toward success.
Analyze and Adapt: When an obstacle presents itself, immediately shift your perspective from the possibility of failure to the valuable learning experiences. Ask what you can learn, what isn’t working, and what you can do to move “off the x.” Then, when the obstacle is cleared, take the time to debrief and analyze what went wrong and why. Identify the root causes and the specific areas where things fell short. This analysis should be positive, constructive, and focused on learning rather than assigning blame. Once you understand the reasons for the failure, adapt your strategy or approach accordingly. Make necessary adjustments, set new goals, and implement changes based on your insights.
Positive Self-Talk: Replace negative external and internal dialogue (and thoughts!) with positive reinforcement. Remind yourself that setbacks don’t define your worth or potential.
Iterate and Persist: Failing forward fast faster is a cyclical iteration done with persistence. After adapting your approach, continue to take action and implement your revised strategy. Be prepared to encounter new challenges or setbacks along the way. When they occur, repeat the process of embracing failure, analyzing, and adapting. Keep iterating and persisting until you achieve your desired outcome.
This uncommon approach allows you to make continuous progress and learn from each obstacle, each one increasing your chances of success in the future. It builds momentum and serious self-confidence. In training, you can seek out obstacles for the sake of personal growth. That is what SEALFIT training is all about. If you want to learn the FFFF principle and develop that unbeatable confidence, plan to join us in 2024 for some tough team mindset training. But until then, know that failing forward fast faster is about becoming 100% resilient and proactive when setbacks occur. This mindset will enable serious growth and lead to important innovations from your teams.