What comes after failure?

What comes after failure is up to you.

It may sound cynical and perhaps it sounds overly stoic, but how we respond to failure means more than the fact that we failed. We all will fail at something, and the sooner we make peace with that the better our lives will be.

I appreciated this episode of the HBR idealcast on the topc of failure: take a listen.

Some highlights:

I think, you know, what we also find is that there are essentially two groups of people after failure, right? One group stay down, manage to stay in but the other group of people we did observe that there’s a higher attrition rate in near misses after in the next 10 years. So this means failures can be devastating in a career, it actually highlights the fragility of a scientific career.

“So the major discovery of this study, a very surprising conclusion, namely a the discovery of tipping point between success and failure. You know, as people fail over and over these two groups of people can be actually quite similar in terms of their learning strategies or their characteristics.

But depending on which side of the tipping point they are in, they could actually experience fundamentally different outcomes. One group of people, if you’re below the tipping point and may be failing over and over, you try to get up and try again, but over and over you’re not learning enough to actually achieve success. This is what we call a stagnation region. You’re trying over and over, but you’ll fail to learn enough to initiate an intelligent pattern with the improvement.

On the other side of the tipping point, which is above this threshold, people fail over and over but they get fail faster and faster to eventually approach success. So this creates a quite a surprising prediction because what it means then is first of all, not all failures lead to success.

If you take these two groups of people, what you will find is that in the beginning, in their first failure, they essentially have the same kind of a performance and the same kind of characteristics. But as they fail over and over, they start to become a very much distinct two group of people because they’re in the two sides of the tipping point.

And that’s the finding that motivated us then to test this prediction systematically from three rather disparate datasets. The first data sets is the NIH grant database we mentioned earlier. Second example is the start-up domain where we look at the innovators that are involved in a startup venture and that didn’t work out, and then try again later involved in another startup venture. And maybe that didn’t work out either. And eventually you’re in a start-up venture that actually achiever initial public offering or high value mergers and acquisitions.”

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