Are You Willing to Fail 90% of the Time to Succeed?

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Goal: To present a different way of looking at failure

This morning I could not sleep and watched a couple of Ted talks. One of them by Jennifer Cohen made me think and even get my calculator out.

The main focus of the presenter’s message was that we must be bold. She estimates that most people try something 1–2 times and then give up. Of course, when asked about it they would state that they tried everything.


Jennifer’s advice was to try something 10 times and only expect that you would most likely fail at 90% rate. That seems pretty harsh but maybe it is true.

So let us assume that we are willing to test an idea through 10 iterations. And each one has a 90% chance of failure. After each failure we take the time to modify our approach and learn from the painful failure lesson.

What happens?

If you make 10 attempts and you learn from each mistake your chances of succeeding are at 65%. WOW!!!! That is about two thirds.

The key is that you force yourself to learn from the mistake. Notice that for attempt 2 the probability of failure is reduced to 90% of 90% or 81%. For your third attempt is 90% of 90% of 90% or 72.9%. And so on..

What is the lesson here?

When wanting to start something you should ask yourself if you are truly willing to go through 10 failures before you hit success. Are you? You have to be honest and smart to evaluate the mistake and make better mistakes each time. If you are NOT then you are simply fooling yourself. And as Richard Feynman taught us, “First principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

What does it take to make 10 attempts? It requires being adaptive, passion, and persevering=> Be Grittier!!!! This was a concept that I wrote about in my 1/25/21 article.

Most of us would rather try things we can easily win in rather than make several attempts before the odds turn in our favor. Notice that the odds turn in your favor after 7 attempts. After 7 attempts you are 52% chance of succeeding.

So be willing to FAIL, PAUSE to learn, ADAPT with modification, and FAIL again… PERSEVERE.

Notice the picture I chose for this article. The person is on a mountain top and can see several tops(Challenges) BUT only one sun(Success). Also notice that the tops are smaller and smaller as our view goes toward the sun.

My nineteen cents….(this is what I earned from for Dec. 2020)

I gotta go…my future self alarm went off


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Robert Trajkovski

Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.