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If you don’t fail, can you still learn?

If you don’t fail, can you still learn?

Is the only way to learn by failing? What if you neither succeed or fail?

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Fail, learn, take action, improve. You need all of those ingredients.

Fail, learn, take action, improve. You need all of those ingredients.

If you don’t start, you can’t fail. If you don’t fail, you can’t learn. If you don’t learn, what’s the point?

You can learn through success, but the real learning comes through failing.

A group of “experimenters” just went through 31 days of our own experiment. My experiment started off as a Guest Posting Experiment, but morphed into something of a “brand building” experiment for my writing self. While I got a lot accomplished, I certainly didn’t “succeed” at guest posting, but I did make progress on building my brand.

The middle of the road isn’t a road I want to be on.

I think part of my struggle was my lack of a defined goal. I didn’t have definite-enough action steps every day so I could do a bit of  this and/or a bit of that and call it a day. I think it would have been more successful if I had more hard science or math or just plain numbers in there.

For example, my Write Every Day challenge was extremely simple: Write Every Day (and hit publish). Easy to imagine, easy to do (ha!) and easy to quantify. Next challenge I know that I need to have a more quantifiable challenge. For example:

  1. Send one query per day.
  2. Spend a half hour per day on my brand. (too vague?)
  3. Identify one potential guest posting target per day (and contact them?).
  4. Rewrite one headline of an old post per day (ooh, this would be a good one). Bonus if I somehow could do A/B testing and see if the new headline got more traffic/shares/likes/etc.
  5. Rewrite one old post per day. Bonus: find a new home for that new version. (Ooh, also a good one.)
  6. Reach out to someone you can help and help them.
  7. Write one review (anything: Yelp, movies, books) per day. (I actually think this would be a really fun challenge.)

You get the idea. Fodder for next time. See, I learned something by “failing” this experiment. I learned how to better do my next experiment. Oh, by the way, I also did improve my brand, increased traffic, wrote more engaging posts (and use more intriguing titles) and, seriously, had more fun because I took it more seriously. Is that even possible?

  • Possible: don’t start
  • Impossible: don’t fail by not starting
  • Repossible: start



  1. John Muldoon

    i read a book about this. Basically, we all learn by trial and error. So if you want to accelerate your learning (and usually also your success), you should accelerate the rate at which you push past your comfort zone just enough to fail and learn. Think of language learning, or watching puppies play (they roughhouse until one crosses the line and someone snarls, then they go back to playing), or new skills like doing handstands. I’ve been writing a bit about this lately too. Maybe failure is one of the secret side benefits of doing experiments.

    • Bradley Charbonneau

      But if you don’t aim high enough, you neither succeed nor fail and that’s, IMHO, the biggest danger.

      It’s the comfort zone, the safe zone and it’s warm and cozy there. They serve hot chocolate and have comfy bean bag chairs. You’re allowed to nap whenever you want.

      You say, “I read about a book about this,” but I think you’ll write a book about this.

      Aim high? 😉

  2. John Muldoon

    At the very least, I’ve been writing a blog post about it. It’s got a pretty good title. I’ll let you know when it’s done.



  1. Writing Every Day Beyond 1,000 Posts - […] If you don’t fail, can you still learn? (Aug 31) […]

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