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Failing Forward

Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones For Success

By John C. Maxwell
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  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell

Failing Forward (2000) provides a positive perspective on failure. These blinks draw on legendary success stories and literary anecdotes to explain the importance of failure, the advantages of embracing it and the power of leveraging your mistakes to stimulate personal growth.

Key idea 1 of 7

Failure can’t be avoided, so think of it as a critical part of moving forward.

While most of us do our best to avoid failure, most entrepreneurs know better. The majority of successful businesspeople attribute their success to their ability to persevere after failures. In fact, it takes entrepreneurs an average of 3.8 failed ventures before they manage to start a successful business.

These entrepreneurs recognize that even if their business eventually fails, they’ll be in a better position than they were when they started. But if their fear of failure had stopped them at the beginning, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

In the real world, a single failure doesn’t always mean the end of the road. Take Sergio Zyman, a marketing executive for Coca-Cola in the 1980s. When Zyman launched the new Diet Coke range, it was hugely popular.

This success bolstered Zyman’s standing in the company and gave him more confidence in his daring ideas. So later, when Coca-Cola wanted to introduce a new formula for Coke, Zyman proposed to introduce it under the name “New Coke.” Zyman believed the new idea would sell so well that he convinced Coca-Cola to stop producing the old version.

To Zyman’s surprise, New Coke was a complete flop. The rebranded bottles failed to sell, costing Coca-Cola approximately $100 million, and Zyman his job. To recover from this blow, Coca-Cola reintroduced their flagship drink under a new name: Coca-Cola Classic.

As it turned out, Coca-Cola Classic was a huge hit. The drink became more popular than ever, and Zyman’s failure to transform the brand in the first instance ended up leading to a great success for the company in the long run. In 1993, Coca-Cola chairman Roberto Goizueta rehired Zyman, acknowledging that daring thinkers can’t be right every time.

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