Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of my favourite authors and business thinkers. I find his daily blog inspirational and insightful.

Here’s one from a while ago that has really stuck with me. I think Seth is spot on with this insight, and it could really help you to deal with failure and think about your corporate culture.

Accuracy, resilience and denial


… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.


If you enter a winner-take-all competition against many other players, accuracy is generally the only rational play. Consider a cross-country ski race. If 500 people enter and all that matters is first place, then you and your support team have to make a very specific bet on what the weather will be like as you wax your skis. Picking a general purpose wax is the resilient strategy, but you’ll lose out to the team that’s lucky enough or smart enough to pick precisely the right wax for the eventual temperature.

Of course, and this is the huge of course, most competitions aren’t winner take all. Most endeavors we participate in offer long-term, generous entrants plenty of rewards. Playing the game is a form of winning the game. In those competitions, we win by being resilient.

Unfortunately, partly due to our fear of losing as well as our mythologizing of the winner-take-all, we often make two mistakes. The first is to overdo our focus on accuracy, on guessing right, on betting it all on the ‘right’ answer. We underappreciate just how powerful long-term resilience can be.

And the second mistake is to be so overwhelmed by all the choices and all the apparent risk that instead of choosing the powerful path of resilience, we choose not to play at all. Denial rarely pays.

Source: Seth Godin

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