18 Thought Leaders Speak Up About Overcoming Failure & Share Their Top 2 Techniques

Every profession requires a certain thickness of skin to withstand failure and rejection.

While failure is present in practically any job, it’s typical to have more fails than wins in sales. The NOs can come flooding one day and hung up phones are not really uncommon.

But it has to be said: The best salespeople are not really those who eventually learn to close every sale.

Let’s face it. It’s nearly impossible to find someone with a 90% and up close rate.

Who emerge as the best? Those who have learned to use different strategies to deal with adversity.

Failures can take a toll on individuals in different ways, and unless you learn to deal with those effects, you cannot count on progress and success.

The way we tackle failures in our personal and professional lives go side by side. Developing strategies for dealing and overcoming failure is the best way to be ready when it comes.

In this post, we asked 18 thought leaders what their top two techniques for overcoming failure are.

If you’re struggling to bounce back after a failed call or a solid rejection, I suggest learning a thing or two from these thought leaders.

Read on:

Peter Coffee
VP for Strategic Research at Salesforce

You can’t have a process for recovering from failure without a process for agreeing that a failure has occurred.

“That agreement should then trigger the next step, which could be called investigation as long as people also agree that the purpose of investigation is learning, not punishment,”: a comment made by General Stanley McChrystal (U.S. Army, Retired) at a Salesforce management meeting, and a goal for any management team to create as a cultural norm.

A culture of learning from failure arises when every team member shares ownership of the plan–or better still, when every team member is author as well as owner of a personal plan.

It’s widely known, and justly celebrated, that Salesforce is built–and at least once a year, rebuilt–on an architecture of plans that are individually agreed between every team member and manager. These plans follow a format called V2MOM: Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles and Measures.

The vision could be called “why my job exists“; the values, “what guides my pursuit of my vision”; the methods, “how I will translate my values into measurable goals.” This is a framework that encourages ambitious targets, minimizes opportunities to make excuses, and invites discussion of what is not acceptable practice — before a gray area becomes a black mark on a personal or a corporate reputation.

In this environment, failure to achieve a specific and agreed objective becomes success in identifying a specific mistake that need never be made–at least, not in the same way–ever again. It breeds teams and processes in a way that selects for brains and judgment — not for luck.

James Meincke
Marketing Manager at CloserIQ

1. Recognize that failure is a vital step to succeeding. All great inventors, entrepreneurs, and athletes have failed many times before reaching greatness. Whether it’s looking for a job or starting a business, the key is to to simply see failure as a necessary step in the process.

2. Learn from your failures. The next step is to analyze what went wrong, focus on which things you can control, and how you can do them differently. As long as you keep changing and adapting, eventually you will succeed. There are unlimited opportunities for success in this world, often times you simply need to try a different angle.”

Chelsea Klukas
Senior UX Lead, Engagement Design Group at Amazon

1. Recognize that failure is part of the growth process.

Setbacks can be frustrating and disappointing, but it’s important to recognize failure as a necessary part of growth. I believe that if you’re never failing, you’re not taking enough risks and reaching high enough. Simply acknowledging that failure is natural can help get over frustration and discouragement and continue moving forward.

2. Be honest and self-critical.

It’s easy to ignore our own contributions to failure, and find excuses or external reasons. Most of the time, there are things we could have done differently and better. Building a habit of being honest with yourself and comfortable with acknowledging your areas for improvement can help prevent repeat mistakes.

When working with a team, stepping up and admitting your own mistakes can help move forward and build stronger teams. It’s a common reaction to try to cover up mistakes or point out how others failed, for fear of losing authority or credibility. In my experience, being the first to admit your areas for improvement will actually improve your credibility by building trust and transparency.


Ariel Levin
Social Media Manager, Consultant & Strategist at The Link

Strategy one: What is the lesson?

If I failed what did I need to learn here? Showing up for the lesson can turn failure into a growth opportunity.

Strategy two: NEXT.

Say next and keep going – move forward, don’t dwell on the failure more than you should because the next opportunity is out there .


Calvin Correli
CEO at Simplero.com

I keep at it. But I also go internally. I’ll see how I may be unconsciously committed to the outcome I got. I’ll go see a healer, or a coach, or some sort of therapist, who I think can help me. I’ll try new things that I haven’t tried before.

I always think three levels:

Physically – taking action.
Emotionally – what are my feelings telling me? What feelings are there that I haven’t felt or connected with yet?
Spiritually – how is this connected to my soul’s evolution, and what’s the lesson there?”

1111zhelMartin Zhel
CEO at Orior Creative, Inbound marketing agency

It is an interesting question.

There are many ways to do it but I believe these are the main 2 strategies that I use as well.:

  1. 1. Self-acceptance

You can’t really deal with failure if you don’t accept that you failed first. One must accept the mistakes his made, he’s current situation and the fact that there is nothing he can do about it.

You can’t change your past– so instead, you should focus on the thing you can control of – your actions.

2. Understand why you failed

Failure is not a bad thing. In fact, I believe succeeding without knowing exactly why is the worst. Because you got lucky once but you won’t know how to replicate that into the future.

When we fail we must always think about – what can we learn from that? Why did we fail? What didn’t work? You might need to search online, reach out to mentors, etc. to be able to find the answer.

The lessons that you learn from failures are much more valuable than short successes.

Ryan Stephens
Thought Leader. Business Strategist.

“It’s hard to distil it down to just two strategies/techniques, but I’ll give it a go.

1. Treat failure like an experiment.

Failure is only final if you stop making progress. If you treat taking risks as an experiment then you might fail the first time, but then you take the time to learn from your mistakes and change the variables so that you’re more likely to be successful the next time.

2. Ask yourself: “How could this have been worse?”

The key is turning disappointment into gratitude. Take “We lost $10,000 this quarter.” and turn it into “We’re lucky that we didn’t bankrupt the company and now that our back is against the wall, we know what need to do to turn things around.”

Jacob Cass
Identity Designer, Logo Designer, Graphic Designer, Web Designer at JUST™ Creative

To overcome “failure” you need to look at it from a different perspective.

Look at your failed endeavors as lessons learned and use what you’ve learned to improve next time. Look at what you did well, and what did not work and try new things. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!

Adam Toren
Award-winning Author. Co-Founded: YoungEntrepreneur.com, Kidpreneurs.org & SBBV.com

Failure doesn’t typically happen in a small business due to one sudden event, but more so due to a handful of oversights and mistakes that may have not been dealt with properly. Mindset is a key to overcoming failure or these mistakes. As long as the founder quickly realizes that failure coupled with resilience and adaptability will enable him/her to come back even stronger and smarter the next time around.

Consciously learn from your mistakes by really examining what went wrong and what went right. Always taking each failure as an opportunity to take a breather and start again but ensuring you take your new knowledge and apply it to the steps ahead.

When in doubt, just remind yourself of this quote by Henry Ford:

Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

Sarah Prout
Co-Founder and Creative Director at Soul Space Media

I see failure as a really important part of the personal and business growth process. It’s an opportunity to be innovative, rise above the situation and ask yourself how you can improve. Beautiful lessons always emerge from seeming failure.

My top two strategies for overcoming failure are…

1. Getting comfortable with uncertainty.

As a person that believes that everything happens for a reason, I feel there is a great opportunity to see failure or disappointment as a training ground to rise from the ashes and make it that much sweeter when success does prevail. Nothing in life is certain, so when we learn to stand back and appreciate the impermanence of it all then we are able to detach to the outcome and ride the wave of surrender.

2. Embracing the idea of ‘this or something better’.

It boils down to trusting and believing that everything is unfolding in perfect timing as it should to form part of your story. If something doesn’t work out, then there will always be a replacement energy or another stepping stone that manifests into your reality that takes you on the journey you are meant to experience. Life and business is both full of interesting detours and learning curves. ”

Jun Loayza
Head of Product and Chief of Bunny Fulfillment at Bunny Inc

Write a post-mortem and publish it to the team.

This accomplishes two objectives: 1) You internalize your learnings from the failure because you write it down. 2) You share your learnings with the team so that you can all benefit.

Brush it off and move forward.

There’s no reason to dwell on mistakes or failures of the past — your best course of action is to keep your head up and keep moving forward.

Penelope Trunk
Founder and CEO at Quistic

1. Get out of bed and try again the next day.

2. Keep fixed expenses as low as possible so if failure leads to having no money you don’t worry about food.

Yashish Dahiya
Co-Founder & CEO at PolicyBazaar

1. Get back into action very fast.

2. Consider it a learning experience, necessary for future success.

Dustin Amrhein
Field Solutions Leader at Insert

I do not really look at it is overcoming failure.

One of the things sports taught me early on in childhood is that as much as you may dislike it, failure is inevitable.

Throughout my career, I have always taken an attitude of embracing failure, and not in a defeatist manner.

I embrace it because I know that it is inevitable, and if failure is inevitable, the best thing I can do is figure out how to leverage it. It may seem strange, but it’s worked well for me.

Give this outlook, I like to take a systematic approach.

When I do fail, I try to ask two important questions:

“What actions did I take that led to the failure?” and “What other factors/actions led to the failure?”

Obviously, I need to understand my actions so that I can learn from their impact. The second question is equally critical, and it’s not about pointing to factors that were ‘out of my control.’ I dislike that expression! Instead, I examine the external factors carefully so that I can learn how to better manipulate or react to them the next time.

With both questions, it is important to be very precise and examine all actions, big and small. The learnings have been invaluable to me!

Chris Guillebeau
Author of The $100 Startup and The Art of Non-Conformity, Founder of WDS, & World Traveler

1. Accept.

2. Try something else.


Elmira Bayrasli
Entrepreneur, Speaker, Coach, Consultant, & Author, From The Other Side of The World

Failure has such a negative stigma in society.

People rarely want to admit that they’ve failed.

For a long time, I struggled with admitting failure. It’s only when I realized that I wasn’t helping myself when I did so. When you can’t admit failure you can’t move forward or progress.

Slowly I started to let go of my fear and stare whatever failure it was head on. And you know what happened? I started to see things more clearly and grow stronger.

Admitting failure allowed me to recognize my role in whatever situation – what I did, what I could have done better. It forced me to see me. That was the biggest revelation.

Now when things don’t work out the way I would like them to – I sit down, look at my actions and take action to fix it and improve.

Another thing that helps in overcoming failure – put it into perspective. A lot of people talk about counting your blessings and expressing gratitude. There is so much truth to that. Your lowest point is someone else’s highest.

Don’t discount how far you’ve come just because you’ve gotten tripped up–however many times you get tripped up. And the more you get tripped up, the more it shows that you’re out there trying. That’s awesome. “

111MurphyLincoln Murphy
Customer Success Strategist & Growth Architect

You can’t let failure define you.

They say “failure is just an event, not a person” and – while cliche – holding this belief top of mind will keep the failures that do occur from having a deeply negative impact on your life.

The reality is, you’ll never fail if you don’t try, so ‘failing’ simply means you tried and the result wasn’t what you needed to continue.

Another quote I like is

The only real failure in life is one not learned from

(generally credited to Anthony J. D’Angelo).

My first startup could be classified as a failure, certainly monetarily; I always say at least I didn’t end up owing too many people too much money. But the experience – having the idea, starting the company, marketing and selling the product, and even trying to find a buyer for the company – certainly wasn’t a failure. What I learned from that “failure” has helped me – and the hundreds of companies I’ve worked with since – in too many ways to count.

111DragilevDmitry Dragilev
Founder at JustReachOut.io

#1 I build an email list.

I ask them what they want.

I build the product.

#2 Before I even write a line of code I use sketches to show the concept of my product to potential customers, I ask them for feedback and whether they’ll buy the product. I then ask them to commit to buying the product.

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