Time to Fail

Posted on January 29, 2009 8:00 AM by Joel Comm

Here's a confession...

Not every idea I've had has been golden.

In fact, I can say that many of the business ideas I've tried have managed to bring me... well, let's just say something was funding one or two lunches per week.

That's one of the advantages of marketing. Everyone gets to know about your successes but your failures just fade away.

But I don't regret any one of those bad ideas. That's not just because they showed me what wasn't working, and not just because each failure moved me one step closer to the killer idea that would make money. Both of those things are true but they're not what make little failures so important to success.

I don't regret them because they were inevitable.

I still set aside time regularly to sit with my staff and brainstorm. We toss out ideas, laugh at the crazy ones, get enthusiastic about some thoughts before dropping them and always come out of each session with a list of projects that we're sure are going to have the money pouring in.

And yet we also prepared for the fact that not all of them are going to work.

We've done the first thing that's necessary for business success: we've set aside time to experiment.

It's important to me to always be trying new things. I like to do things that others have not done before. And why not? There's so much that remains to be done!

Instead of focusing only on what we know works, we're always looking for new paths, new strategies and new ways of generating revenue. If you want to keep moving forward, that's vital.

The second thing needed to succeed though is to understand that success doesn't happen all the time.

If we try ten ideas and one works, that's good enough. We'll have had fun with the other nine and we'll still have made money.

We didn't give up at the first sign of a bad idea and that's vital too.

But perhaps most important of all when you're trying new ideas is to be able to recognize failure when you see it.

Experimenting is fun, and it's essential, but tossing good marketing time and money after a project that won't take off is just bad business.

If you experiment, you have to be prepared to fail. And if you're prepared to fail, you have to be able to spot that failure... and keep replacing it until you find the idea that succeeds.

Then you try to find another one.

See Also

Your Next Business Idea - Feb 15, 2010
What's the Big Idea? - Feb 18, 2008

12 Comments For This Post

  1. Hortensa Dewalt Says:

    I agree with you on not regretting the decisions you have made that have failed.

    Failure to me is nothing more than an opportunity to learn more about my industry, market and myself. It helps me make better decisions in the future.

    Great post

  2. Love To Fail Says:

    So right on, Joel. Failure is just a fact of life. The more you fail and the faster you do it, the closer you are to success.

  3. Chuck Frey Says:

    If you're not failing, you're not taking big enough chances. It's the only way to innovate these days, especially when you're dealing with new media and technologies. Unfortunately, many organizations still punish failure, so executives are afraid to try anything risky. Been there, done that, almost got fired - won't try it again. I think it's great that you encourage such experimentation among your team members, Joel. It's one of the reasons that you and your firm are so successful today!

    In fact, I admire your approach so much that I'd like to conduct a Thought Leader interview with you for my website, InnovationTools.com. Please drop me an e-mail and let me know when we can schedule a call.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Shane Hudson Says:

    I agree with this. I believe there is no such thing as a "failure" because you always learn from it. One of the main purposes of my website is to motivate and inspire people to learn from their failures and improve themselves.

  5. Bridgett Says:

    Well said, Joel. It reminds me of a book I would highly recommend to anyone who has experienced failure - Failing Forward. I read it a few years ago after a (what then seemed like) disastrous real estate project. Good read and good points here. Sounds like your business meetings are fun!

  6. Steve Says:

    I also read John Maxwell's book, Failing Forward. It's a great view on failure. In fact, if you are not failing, you are not taking consistent action, and therefore, you are not going to accomplish a whole lot. It's time for all of us to double our failure rate, as long as we are learning from our mistakes! :)

  7. Ben Clemons Says:

    Great post Joel! I love the quote you made, "each failure moved me one step closer to the killer idea that would make money." That is so very true! That's why people should never give up.

  8. German Romance Says:

    The only time we fail in life, is when we don't learn anyting from the experience. We will 'fail' our way to success in life!

  9. Jordy Says:

    Two things that I have invested a considerable amount of time in is building a couple of forums. Neither of them has really taken off and they are not making enough money to even pay for the annual domain costs.

    I have basically put them on the shelf for now and have moved onto creating some other sites.

    I am not really sure what to do with the dead weight forums at this point.

    Thanks for a great post, I think I may be a little closer to the realization that my efforts are not as successful as I'd expected but it's OK, just keep moving forward.

  10. Kevin Puls Says:

    I can't tell you how many times I have failed.

    I used to beat myself up every time I stumbled.

    But then I learned. I learned to start surrounding myself with like-minded individuals by attending seminars. My first one was Ken McAthur's JV Alert.

    There I learned from so many helpful people I met.

    Still being human, we all still have our shares of failures, but we learn from our mistakes.

    Now with our first, original site built and starting to create a buzz...

    Onto the next list of 1300+ domains we will now build & sell.

    Mistakes are happening less & less. Thanks to the support of folks like you who freely lend their insights & advice on you blogs.


    10% of after-tax proceeds are donated to military charities.

  11. online virtual worlds for kids Says:

    Nice to see somebody approaching "failures" in such a good way. I believe that as long as time is spent constructivly, there is no time wasted.

    All the best =]

  12. Tina Cahill Says:

    I signed up on this website for inspiration and I am so glad I did.

Leave a Reply

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

Advertise Here

Subscribe to JoelComm.com, Free!

Subscribe to JoelComm.com via RSS

Subscribe to Joel's YouTube Channel


Or, subscribe via email:


Joel's Twitpic Photo Stream

See all photos

Advertise Here


Joel Comm is an Internet entrepreneur who has been online for over 20 years. In 1995, Joel launched WorldVillage.com, a family-friendly portal to the web which enjoys thousands of visitors each day. Joel is the co-creator of ClassicGames.com, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1997, and now goes by the name Yahoo! Games. Since then, Joel's company, InfoMedia, Inc., has launched dozens of web sites which offer online shopping, free stuff, website reviews and more. Joel is the author of many popular books, including the NY Times Best-Seller, The AdSense Code. He regularly makes appearances at Internet marketing conferences and seminars.
FTC Disclaimer: Posts written before December 1st, 2009 may include endorsements of products or services that include a material connection to the author. Readers should assume a material connection for any product or service endorsed prior to December 1, 2009.