my favorite definition of failure

In building a business, inspiration, motivation, stories by Jay Clouse

My cousin Ben has had a pretty big impact on my life over the years, though he probably doesn’t know it.

When I was in college and wanted to participate in The StartupBus, I had to raise some money to afford the costs of the trip. Without hesitation, he cut me a $300 check with the memo, Pay It Forward.

He’s an alum of The Ohio State University (as I am) and holds something like 4 Masters and even spent several years working towards a PhD in¬†Organizational Behavior, Human Resources and Labor Economics.

…that was social proof of his intelligence.

And just a couple of winters ago, we were catching up over a beer. I forget the context, but sort of offhand, he told me his definition of failure.

“Failure just means that the intended result was not achieved.”

Before you jump to, “Yeah, no sh**, Jay” think about it a little more.

In any endeavor, anything we put efforts towards, we are doing it with some sort of intended result. Sometimes (often, really) that intended result is not achieved.

By Ben’s definition, that is a failure.

But that failure does not define the effort. That effort may have manifested in new insight, a different direction, formative relationships, or some other form of success. In some cases, “failure” is the best thing that could happen – the intended result was not a truly optimal or preferable result.

I’ve failed many times. But I’d be hard-pressed to name a time when the failure was not worthwhile and accompanied by the inception of a new, positive direction.


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