Failure Culture: Reframing Mistakes to Grow As a Professional

Failure culture is an uncomfortable topic in any professional setting. Even if you are an entrepreneur. There’s an inner voice that constantly says “you can’t afford mistakes”, “defeat is not an option.” There’s a constant pressure to succeed almost flawlessly.

If you were to reframe failure, though, your work would gain more depth. In any creative process, missteps, ups and downs, and losses are bound to happen. That’s the nature of any initiative.

I remember the time when I was discussing marketing strategies with a former manager. We were going to launch a new product, and we had clear goals to reach. As we were wrapping up our meeting, I said: “If some parts of the strategy don’t go as planned, then we’ll learn a lot.” His response was unforgettable: “Yeah, but let’s try not to make any mistakes. We can’t do that.”

Failure culture is almost taboo. After careful planning and investment of time and resources into a business, why would you welcome it? You are aiming for great results. However, it’s worth reflecting on two key factors: the input that learning experiences can provide and the idea of embracing discomfort to grow as a person and as a professional.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

According to Tom Hardcastle on his article How to Cultivate a Failure Culture, reframing failure can enhance an organization’s ability to innovate and thrive. This same principle can apply to any individuals that are building their own businesses. The key component to implement this culture is creating an environment that enables experimentation while removing any fear of being judged or criticized.

A culture which embraces the potential to fail is more human-centered.

Tom Hardcastle


Making mistakes is an aspect of human nature. They’re unavoidable, and it’s best to accept that we will find flaws along our creative process. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s necessary to fail in order to succeed.

Michael Jordan, the best basketball player of all time, puts it better in this TV ad from the 90s. Even the best have to navigate turbulent waters over and over again.

The best advice I’ve ever received came from my trigonometry teacher in high school. I was setting a record for the worst marks in quizzes and exams. When taking a one-to-one tutoring session with him, his words impacted me deeply: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

It was like I was freed from any pressure of ‘getting it all right’. With a little more work and discipline, and after doing lots of exercises, we were able to spot the exact part of the equations that I wasn’t understanding. Later on, as I was more prepared for the upcoming quizzes and exams, my marks improved exponentially.

It makes sense to build a failure culture to document experiences and lessons learned. It also makes sense to move away from perfection and bringing our human self to the table to solve challenges and innovate. Any bumps on the road cause discomfort, yes, but isn’t that what makes you grow?

Consider that thought when you are experiencing hard times in your job.