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We’re all familiar with the phrase, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It goes back centuries presuming that the reason people fail to succeed is that they quit after failing, suggesting that success is achievable if you don’t stop trying. But is just trying repeatedly enough?

As distressing as failure is, it can be a good thing. It teaches us things we didn’t know we needed to know and provides an opportunity to learn things better, in addition to increasing our capacity to recover more quickly from difficulties.

I recently read an interesting article published by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University entitled, Why Do Some People Succeed after Failing, While Others Continue to Flounder? which considers a different approach to thinking about success after failure—is it luck or learning?

Some learn from failed attempts more than others by significantly analyzing the failure. The importance of feedback and the lessons learned from the failure is only valuable if incorporated into future attempts. “Failing well” can be key to success in helping shape future decisions that can lead to growth.

With my son, Charlie, at a recent Maryland vs. SMU football game, where I was the honorary captain for the game.

We are all hard-wired to avoid failure, especially in the financial world, which can make it easy to abstain from making certain decisions for fear of making a mistake. It’s just important to remember that small failures are inevitable and should be viewed as bumps in the road rather than the end of the road and that learning from them helps to adapt and refine long-term strategies.

I often find myself talking about learning from our failures in different aspects of my own life.  Whether I’m working with my two sons helping to “pick them up” after a loss or a tough game, or when speaking with clients about the difficult markets we’re experiencing, and the lessons that we’ve learned from prior downturns and “losses.” I think we all want to continuously improve at whatever we’re doing, and as the article points out, learning as much as we can from our failures is a critical component.  But, as I am finding with my two boys, it’s not always the best strategy to try and learn from those mistakes immediately … sometimes the best thing to do is have a quiet ride home from the ballfield and then rehash the failures the next day.

As always, if you have any questions or need additional information, please reach out.

Take care,

Todd M. Wike, CFP®

Managing Partner, Potomac Financial Group
2022 RJFS Chairman’s Council Member*

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