two types of failure

Have you failed recently? Maybe you missed a deadline, pitched a bad idea, overslept and went to school/work late or made a bad financial decision. We all fail. And it’s usually on a daily basis. Sometimes our failures are big and have a major impact. Other times they are so inconsequential we hardly notice them.

I know I have failed quite a bit over the years, but you want to know what I have learned, failure is actually a good thing That is the complete opposite of what we have grown up believing. Naturally, I was a skeptic when I heard that it was good to fail because of this. However, the longer I have lived my adult life, the more I am beginning to understand the full meaning and impacts of failure.

Related: Creating a Failure Résumé (The Why and How of It)

When it comes down to it, there are two types of failure, the one that damages you and the one you learn from. Let’s figure out the difference between the two.

Two Types Of Failure

The One That Damages You

Let’s be honest, failure can sting a little. It can hurt your pride. This kind of failure burns your cheeks a stinging red and makes you want to hide your face for the rest of your life. It can send you streaming down a never ending trail of what ifs:

  • What if I prepared more?
  • What if I tried something different? 
  • What if I asked for help?
  • What if this wasn’t the opportunity for me?
  • What if I’m not good enough?

As you can tell the what-if questions can hurt just as much, if not more, as the actual failure. It does no good to go down the endless trail of what-if statements. They don’t help you get better and can damage your self-esteem, among other effects.

You’ll be less likely to want to try again or take another risk. This makes it hard for growth to happen. Fear of failure is real. After failing you may decide to stop trying so that you don’t have to experience failure again. 

Bottom line: This type of failure can be damaging, but there is another way out of this debilitating mindset. 

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The One You Grow From

Still trying to figure out how failure can be a good thing? Let’s start by seeing what the big leaders and historical figures say:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” —Henry Ford

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.” —John C. Maxwell

All of these leaders can’t be wrong, right? Failure is a good thing, because it can help you grow. If you do happen to fail, it is all about your reaction to it.

Next time, instead of freaking out and blaming yourself, ask yourself these questions below. Answer these questions in an honest and non-judgmental way:

  • What was the outcome? (failing a test, giving a bad pitch, eating pizza throughout the week when you are on a diet, etc.)
  • Taking everything into consideration, did you have the power over the situation, or was the outcome out of your control?
  • What can you learn from this?
  • What steps can you take to do better next time?

By doing this you are taking control of the failure instead of it taking control of you.

Bottom line: Failure can be a great way to grow if you let it be.

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Action Steps For Growth Next Time You Fail

After you fail, it’s important to take action to make sure you grow and expand from that failure.

1. Don’t get worked up.

The first instinct is to blame yourself through using negative remarks and going down the what if trail. Don’t do that! Find a way to calm yourself down and step back from the situation for a while.

You don’t have to tell anyone about your perceived failure either. You can keep it private until you’re ready to talk about it with others. And if you simply want to learn your lesson and move on, that’s okay too.

2. Reflect on what happened.

After you’ve had some time to reset, it’s time for some reflection. Answer those questions from above, and look at the situation from a neutral perspective. 

Pretend like you’re talking to a friend. How would you react to their situation if they told you about what happened? Be kind to yourself and emphasize the growth and learning aspect. You don’t need to dwell on the act itself but rather what you learned from it. 

3. Write down three things you are grateful for.

I know this sounds strange, but I want you to write out what you are grateful for learning from this failure. It may be hard at first but it will help the growth process.

For example, one of my failures recently was getting turned down for a couple of job opportunities. The three things that I took away from those experiences are that:

  1. It led me to seek help from a career counselor.
  2. Getting a seasonal job in place of those opportunities has given me the time to work on creating and growing my portfolio.
  3. It made me realize I need to get better at my finances.

4. List what you will do differently next time.

Now it’s time to look toward the future. How can you move forward with what you learned and apply it next time you face a similar situation?

You can also ask yourself what you would do differently knowing what you know now. This can help you better prepare for the future and for the next opportunity that you encounter.

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5. Find the next opportunity.

Don’t wait and give yourself time to talk yourself out of taking action.

Look for a new promotion, start studying for the next test, set a few more alarms for the next morning, etc.


The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to believe in yourself.

From my experience, this will make or break the way you react and respond to failure. If you want to learn more about failure check out some of these books; I know I’ll be adding some of these to my reading list.

Also, if you need more motivation to get through a failure, check out this video:

What is your verdict? Do you agree? Disagree? How do you handle failure?