You Can Fail Your Way To The Top A Business Lesson From Ted Lasso

February 27th, 2023, 12:00 PM

I'll come right out and say it: I think how we grade kids in school is stupid. To pass a class, kids my son's age need to achieve at least a 69%. Anything below that is a failing grade.

Why is this stupid? Well, it doesn't reflect real life.

In reality, you can fail more often than you succeed and still become successful in your personal life and/or career. Think about Thomas Edison, who messed up hundreds of times and created many unsuccessful inventions before perfecting the lightbulb. Or consider author Joseph Heller whom 22 publishers rejected before he found someone to print "Catch 22." Heck, I count myself lucky if 51% of my business decisions succeed. Yet, my son must score 92% to get an A on an essay. How does that make sense?

As you might imagine, Jackie and I don't teach our kids the same standards for failure they learn in school. Instead, we explain that there are only three ways to truly fail.

  1. You never tried.
  2. You gave up.
  3. You didn't learn a lesson.

If you try, see the task through, and learn from it, you've achieved success in my book. We celebrate those "victories."

This is true for 12-year-olds and 5-year-olds, but it's also true for full-grown adults — and I try to lead by example. Obviously, my team and I keep our legal track record for our clients well above a "failing" grade, but I'm not afraid to try new things and fail on the business side of my firm.

Take our webinars. We've created a LOT of webinars over the years to turn prospects into clients. Some of them go amazingly well — and others are complete failures. Depending on the topic and timing of the webinar, we might only have five people show up, or we might have 50–100 people show up without booking a single consultation. Still, we keep doing webinars because every time we host one, we learn more about what works and what doesn't.

Our results have significantly improved thanks to that repeated testing and analysis. Every time a webinar fails, I think of one of my favorite quotes, which I discovered via "Ted Lasso": "Be curious, not judgmental."

This is how you should approach trying new things, not just in your marketing but in every area of your business. It's okay if you lose more often than you win as long as you learn something and get back up to try again.

  • Can't keep new hires around no matter how hard you try? Revamp your training process and try again.
  • Got screwed over by your last vendor? Hire someone else and try again.
  • Struggling to bring in new applicants? Rewrite your job ad and post it again.

I just tried out that last situation with a fellow law firm owner I'm coaching. After rewriting their job ad, not only do they have applicants, but they have such great candidates that they've even decided to hire two instead of one.

If you can reframe failures as learning experiences, fear won't hold your business back anymore. In 2023, I recommend going into every initiative with the knowledge you might fail, and it's okay if you do. Cultivating this "get-up mindset" isn't easy, but it's worth it. You may not see returns immediately, but if you keep trying and refining, you'll end up on top.

- Adam Williams

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