The 6 reasons for failure

‘There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.’  Tom Krause

To get the full benefit of failure you need to understand the reasons for it. According to world-class choreographer Twyla Tharp in her book The Creative Habit, these reasons generally fall into 6 broad categories:

1. Failure of skill. You have an idea in mind but not the requisite skills to pull it off. This means your first priority should be to develop the skills you need, or find other people who have those skills and agree to be part of your supportive network.  

2. Failure of concept. You have a weak idea that doesn’t hold up in practice. This means you’re most likely in a cul-de-sac, so quit before it’s too late.  

3. Failure of judgement. You say something inappropriate and damage crucial relationships forever; you don’t dismiss parts of your work that are sub-par; you include parasites and leeches into your supportive network etc. These are just a few examples of bad judgement that can lead to the failure of your legacy project.

4. Failure of nerve. You don’t have the guts to do what it takes to explore your idea fully. The solution to this is to try to specify your biggest fears in relation to taking action. Specific fears are less daunting than general fears, and easier to overcome. If this fails, you need to learn that looking foolish is good for you.

5. Failure of repetition. You keep churning out the same old stuff, but it’s not working any more. It’s time for a change of direction. 

6. Failure of denial. You see that something isn’t working and yet you refuse to deal with it, most likely because you have already invested so many resources into the part that isn’t working. Good, brutally honest appraisal from a friend or a partner is invaluable in such situations. Get them to make you face reality and deal with the situation.

Regardless of the reasons for it, failure is painful. Make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes with your next legacy project, and read 20 ways to deal with failure for advice on how to deal with your current failure. Above all, remember: if you want to create legacy, you’re in it for the long run. So don’t let one failure make you abandon your ambitions. Pick yourself up and get on with your next legacy project.

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