Fail Forward


Tuesday, January 13, 2004


“The secret of success is to go from failure to
failure without any loss of enthusiasm.”
--Winston Churchill

With all due modesty, I have perhaps experienced
more marketing success in my own businesses than
any other person whose audience is entrepreneurs.

So then, does the subject of failure really belong on
these pages? My answer: Absolutely!

Indeed, I don’t know of a more important success


I submit you can never succeed big until you first
discover how to fail.  And that it’s OK, and even
desirable, to fail.

Plus, I’ve never seen or heard anyone talk about the
subject in a realistic way.

Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not advocating being
cavalier about any of your endeavors.

Indeed, doing all you can do to succeed in every
activity is the path to high performance.

However, let’s say you or a loved one fails a subject
in school. Providing you’ve applied yourself as best
you can, nothing terrible happens.

You can always take the class over or change

Why spend endless hours punishing yourself or
others?  It’s not fair.  And it’s a waste of time.

First, I’m going to show how to develop “an
immunity to failure.” 

I feel I’m eminently qualified to write about failure.
While I’ve been blessed with a success level beyond
my dreams, contrary to popular belief, in marketing
and copy campaigns I’ve failed at least three times
more often than I’ve succeeded.  And this continues.
With new businesses of my own, my record is 21
successes and 2 failures. 

My experience in direct marketing is not unique. A
friend, Joe Sugarman, famous for BluBlocker
sunglasses and one of the best copywriters ever,
states he is thrilled if one out of 10 marketing
campaigns is a success.  And his prime audience is
consumers, one of the toughest to penetrate.

With copy projects for clients, especially for an
entrepreneurial or health audience, I have major
successes about 3 or 4 times out of about 10

Here is the good news. If I succeed just 10% of
the time, I continue to earn fortunes for my clients.
And since I usually own equity in the company, for
myself as well!

Tip: The secret to marketing success—risk small
and “roll out” big.

Indeed, while they may not publicize it, every highly
successful person I know, whether an entrepreneur,
politician, or executive, fails far more often than they

So do the world’s best athletes.

On your path to success you, too, will undoubtedly
fail far more often than you will succeed.

Here is the important point. It’s not your failures
that can cause you the problems. It’s how you react
to them that makes all the difference.

When many people experience even a single
marketing setback, such as an ad that doesn’t pull,
they get so discouraged and down on themselves they
never try again. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this
way. It’s a choice that’s within your power.

In Europe and Asia in particular a failure of any
kind, especially in business, is considered shameful.
Unfortunately, it’s even socially unacceptable.

For example, at least two entrepreneurs I know in
Switzerland didn’t succeed their first time out. Now
they do not even show their face at our tennis club.
They are too ashamed!

This aversion to failure keeps the vast majority of
Europeans from taking risks and becoming

The most forgiving country in the world as to risks,

Copyright 2003 Nicholas Direct, Inc.