Crash. Burn. Turnaround: Seven Ways to Turn Failure Into Success


“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” 

Babe Ruth (1895–1948), American baseball player

Perhaps you are leading an organizational change (e.g., merger, acquisition, downsizing, hyper-growth, business process reengineering) that is not performing quite as planned. It could even be considered a…failure. So, what do you do?

You may not realize it now, but you have (at least) two key responses: the ‘little w’ response and the ‘Big W’ response (and I am hopeful that my Northern Trust Corporation colleagues reading this entry are smiling at the re-use of big and little w).

Option One: The little w response. wallow in self-pity

Option Two: Big W response:  Be Willing. Be Willing to turn disappointments into great accomplishments by:


  • Changing a course of action that isn’t working, no matter how much faith, time and money you may have put into it so far
  • Abandoning a path that is not taking you where you want to go, and starting over again




Thomas Edison believed there were no mistakes or failures, only “eliminated options” that brought him one step closer to his goal. Decide to eliminate option one above and rethink failure.

A failure can be a valuable opportunity to regroup and rethink strategies and goals. Do not let pride keep you stuck in a wrong decision. Realize there is hope on the other side of the change, even if you cannot see it yet.

ACTION: Try these seven steps to turn failure into success. 

1.   Look at your past objectively

2.   Focus on the purpose on the other side of the failure / pain

3.      Realize that you can’t see the whole parade from where you stand

4.      It’s not whether you have won or lost in the past; it’s the person you have to become to win in the future. Think about who you want to become 

5.  Accept that falling is a normal part of life, but try to fall forward – in the direction of your goal

6.  Realize that pain and heartache are only labor pains before your / the change’s birth

7.  Know that retreat does not equal defeat


I recognize that these steps are not easy. There are strategies and tools to help you succeed in each step. Consider adding your steps that have worked well for you in the past. Even better, create a new step.

Make a deliberate decision not to give up in transforming your adversities into success springboards.

Adapted from © Advisor Today 2008 and Critical Choices That Change Lives: How Heroes Turn Tragedy Into Triumphby Daniel Canstro. All rights reserved.


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Sandra Schwan

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