You Learn More From “Failure” than “Success”… or Do You?

By Susan Ford Collins

You’ve probably heard the old saying… you learn more from your failures than your successes. Well maybe, but not necessarily. Let me explain why.

If you fail to get the result you want and let that experience slip back into memory AS IS, your brain will unconsciously recall that upset and disappointment whenever you’re in similar situations creating dread and hesitation in the future. You know the feeling… Oh no. Not again. Procrastination, avoidance and, like it or not, repetition. That’s just the way our brain works.

Despite what “they” say, you don’t learn more from failures… you actually learn less… because unconsciously thereafter you avoid opportunities to learn more and gain more experience. But if you Update that memory, by thinking through what you learned, you can learn more.

Here’s How to Update a Failure… 3 Essential Steps

1-Imagine watching that failure scene again. (If was really painful, imagine viewing it on a movie screen while you sit in the audience. This will give you perspective and disconnect old painful emotions!

2-This time picture that situation working out. What would it take to be a success instead? How could you change what you thought and did, what others thought and did? What expertise could you use to switch that experience from negative to positive? This process of mentally transforming a failure into a success is called Updating… an essential skill you need to know, and use, to be fearless enough to change a product, system and our world. To be creative and innovative.

3-Once you have the details of that Updated success scene clearly in mind, step into it and experience it… see it, hear it, taste it, smell it… and by all means feel the pleasure of it working out. In this step, you do want to feel the emotion, so enjoy it and savor it. Memorize this Updated version so your brain can access it the next time you go into in a similar situation. So you will feel confident.

Why does Updating work?

To our brains, thoroughly detailed virtual experiences work the same way real experiences do… and even better. This was demonstrated years ago by Dr. Maxwell Maltz who had two teams practice basketball. He told one team to go on the court and practice as usual. Maltz had the other team mentally/virtually shoot basketballs and imagine making every shot. A perfect performance! Which team did better the next time they played? You guessed it. The team that pre-experienced doing it perfectly.

Bottom line, to learn more, increase the time you spend Updating past failures (no matter how long ago they occurred!) so you can be far more successful in your future. And far more confident and enthusiastic now.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email


*For more on Updating, read Skill Six in The Joy of Success or Our Children Are Watching.


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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins