Failure…Your Best Teacher.

My palms were so sweaty. My feet felt warm. I’m not particularly fond of ties, but this one started to feel more like a noose. The room was air conditioned, but here I sat…sweating liked I’d just finished a late summer trail run. I recall wondering if I was going to have to explain to my dry-cleaner exactly how my suit got like this.

“You. What’s your name? Stand up. What’s your biggest fear?” ~Marcus Lemonis (yea, that one).

Suddenly, an entire room of 1000+ people turned toward my seat. Cameras and spotlights swung in my direction. A person raced from the back to hand a mic to Marcus’ next victim.

I was in full-on panic mode. A deer in the headlights. I’ve spoken at dozens of seminars, workshops, and conferences. I’ve taken presentations and contract negotiations into Fortune 100 CXO conference rooms. Hell, I’ve read storybooks in front of 100+ first graders (an impossibly intimidating audience). What was the problem?

“Oh. Me?” ~ the poor guy next to me who was handed the microphone.

Ahhhh….a sensation of relief as great as I’ve ever felt. I was off the hook momentarily. But later I’d be forced to labor over why I this simple exercise of self-examination — Marcus asks only that you tell him what you’re most afraid of — had made me so incredibly uncomfortable.

It’s simply part of my DNA to sell, to compete, to win. Failure hasn’t been an option I was was accustomed to acknowledging.

Every moment from the second I exited the conference hall until I arrived at my home airport the next day was spent considering what I would have said to Marcus had I been handed the mic. Why was I so worried? Failure. Not experiencing it…losing is part of sales…but acknowledging I’ve failed in front of 1,000+ people, in front of someone as successful as Marcus Lemonis.

This bothered me…for weeks. I talked about it with everyone until they could no longer take my blathering.


The more I talked the more I recognized that I remembered incredible details of past failures. I could almost place myself in the moment. BUT, I could only recall a few wins and successful moments in my life.

The granular details of each failure stuck with me, while the successes were mostly gone.

My fear of openly acknowledging my failures blinded me from the positive impact each had on my growth as a person. I’d learned so much from my failures, whether it was a lost deal or a mismanaged relationship or a startup that crashed and burned. I just didn’t recognize how powerful these moments were for me. How much better I’d become because of them.

I’ve grown to manage by embracing a brief, open, honest discuss of each failure along the way during one-on-one meetings. It’s about understanding the failure, learning from it, and then shaking it off.

Winning is what we want, but our win rate only improves if we learn from our losses.

How have failures impacting your sales career for the positive?

Do you or your managers embrace discussing failure in a positive?

Originally published at