Two different types of failure

‘Self-sabotage is the smartest thing you can do if you’re sabotaging a self that is not really you.’  Armand Demele

Let’s assume your legacy project has gone awfully wrong and you’ve had to quit. So, like most of us do, you see it as a failure. Over the next few days, I’ll discuss the notion of failure in more depth. Here goes.

First of all, I will argue that all failures can be seen are positive, as heralds for a new beginning. Secondly, failures are not all the same. Let us distinguish failures depending on whether they mark the end of the road for a particular pursuit, or are simply a temporary set-back.

The first type of failure I will call a ‘cul-de-sac failure’, because these kinds of failures arise due to having reached a cul-de-sac. Having worked on the legacy projects leading to cul-de-sac failures doesn’t teach you much except that you don’t want to start another project like that ever again. But this in itself is positive, and it is best if you have such failures early in life, when you have little to lose and everything to gain from acknowledging it as a failure and moving on to something you will now be much better equipped to choose.

The second type of failure I will call a ‘temporary failure’. These are failures that feel like it’s the end of the road, but in fact serve as fuel for continuing along the same path but with smarter strategies. Simon Cowell, the music mogul, encountered a failure of this kind about 15 years ago – his company collapsed in a spectactular way and he had to move back in with his parents, in his mid-thirties, with seven pounds to his name. It may have seemed like the end of the road, but Simon didn’t abandon his music career – he simply used all the lessons he learned through his temporary failure to change tactics and achieve the spectacular heights he is at today. Stories such as these are not uncommon – Simon Cowell just came to mind because he has such a high profile at the moment.

The best way to deal with cul-de-sac failures is to start something completely different, using your experience to choose a lot more wisely. The temporary failure, on the other hand, you should deal with by regrouping and getting back on the same track, but with smarter tactics.

Where it gets tricky is that some people confuse temporary failures with cul-de-sac failures. So they keep changing direction constantly, always wondering if their next career will lead to success.

Think about times in your life when you have failed. Did these failures belong in the cul-de-sac or the temporary category? Be aware of the differences, and use this knowledge to your advantage.

The time is now.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at