Embracing Failure: Turning Setbacks into Soaring Success


Failure is a topic that often makes us feel uncomfortable. We tend to avoid mistakes and failures, especially in front of others. However, as fighter pilots, we have learned the importance of embracing failure and turning it into a catalyst for growth and improvement.

Over six decades ago, we recognized that focusing on learning from mistakes and failures was pivotal to our remarkable performance transformation, enabling us to achieve a remarkable 98% success rate. When we fail, our bodies release toxic chemicals that can impair our cognitive abilities and drain our energy.

The secret to our success lies in our debriefing process. Through open, honest, and candid conversations with our peers, we convert negative experiences into valuable lessons and positive outcomes. Remarkably, our bodies respond the same way to both real victories and simulated ones. By reframing a negative experience and deriving a positive action plan from it, we can swiftly reverse the chemical reactions triggered by failure.

Imagine incorporating a structured debriefing process into your organizational culture. What if you and your team could debrief daily, just like fighter pilots do? By doing so, major mistakes and failures would become relics of the past, replaced by a culture of continuous improvement and growth. The daily frustrations and recurring errors that haunt you will fade away.

By embracing the practice of debriefing, you can create a framework within your organization that leads to remarkable improvement, boosting performance by 200 to 300%. Have you ever taken the time to debrief a sales call that resulted in a “no” answer? How about a failed tender response? And what about those operational inefficiencies and recurring errors that seem to plague your team? Have you ever delved into their root causes?

As fighter pilots, we have come to realize that debriefing is more critical than the mission itself. It is through the practice of debriefing that we set ourselves up for future success. By creating a culture of open communication, continuous learning, and constructive feedback, you can cultivate an environment where failure is viewed as an opportunity to grow, rather than something to be feared.

So, let us embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. Let us adopt the practice of debriefing, not only to learn from our mistakes but also to harness their transformative power. Through this commitment to continuous improvement, we can soar to new heights and achieve remarkable results.