huhehuaLearn from my failures!


“Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of the fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.” What’s that from? It’s from this blog post by Sivers. Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, wrote a book review of a book called Seeking Wisdom, the lessons of Charlie Munger. I was struck by this passage from his review:

Make fewer and better decisions. Why? Because it forces us to think more on each decision and thereby reduces our chance of mistakes.

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

Often we try to get too much information, including misinformation, or information of no use to explain or predict. We also focus on details and what’s irrelevant or unknowable and overlook the obvious truths. Dealing with what’s important forces us to prioritize. There are often just a few actions that produce most of what we are trying to achieve.”

“Often we learn more from understanding why something doesn’t work than from why it does.


  • Why did that happen?
  • Was was the mistake?
  • What circumstances were present?
  • What’s the lesson?
  • How can we create the best conditions to avoid mistakes?
  • How can we prevent causes that can’t be eliminated?
  • How can we limit the consequences and probability?

Assume we’ve achieved our goal, then ask: What was the purpose? Was this what I wanted? What is needed to achieve this?”

Derek says in this post, “Failure is your friend. While it’s often disappointing to miss the goal you aimed for, there’s always a consolation prize. When you fail, you become smarter. You teach your mind to become better at prediction. This is an immensely powerful result.”

What have you failed at lately?
“If you want to double your success rate, triple your failure rate.” -Cory Doctorow

Every year from now on, I am going to have a failures post.

Here are my fundraising failures of the last five years,
Here are my business failures of 2010,
and this one below is for 2012.

Failure to make aries labs go
Failure to make new apps for lawyers
Failure to make more games
Failure to get government contracts
Failure to prevent our bikes from being stolen
Failure to realize earlier that working a lot for someone was building their business, not mine.
Failure to realize that a diet of crushed pears is a starvation diet
Failure to eat more green vegetables
Failure to make enough time to be with friends.
Failure to choose the correct apartment the first time (Hey Bill Creger, I want my deposit back!)
Failure to take care of myself = throwing my back out!
What did we learn from these failures?

I learned, as Hugh McLeod says, “Big offers are a good thing, but personal sovereignty matters a whole lot more over the long run.”

I tried to move into a field where I had no advantage.

Know what you understand and what you don’t understand. It’s not how big the circle is. But it’s terribly important that you know where the perimeter is.

Why should we want to play a competitive game in a field where we have no advantage – maybe a disadvantage – instead of playing in a field where we have a clear advantage?

Use your advantages.

Where do I have an edge over others?

Starting a lot of businesses at once, or starting a few new websites is not going to work. If you have lots of ideas, spread them out and work on them every quarter instead of trying to do everything every day.

Doing too many things at once is a recipe for failure.

Don’t try to build an audience with multiple different kinds of people, that doesn’t scale.

Why am I so focused on my own ignorance? Because I was afraid to write this blog post. And I did it anyway. So according to Maslow, this is how you self-actualize. Proof?


  1. Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly. Throw yourself into the experiencing of something: concentrate on it fully, let it totally absorb you.
  2. Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.
  3. Let the self emerge. Try to shut out the external clues as to what you should think, feel, say, and so on, and let your experience enable you to say what you truly feel.
  4. When in doubt, be honest. If you look into yourself and are honest, you will also take responsibility. Taking responsibility is self-actualizing.
  5. Listen to your own tastes. Be prepared to be unpopular.
  6. Use your intelligence, work to do well the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.
  7. Make peak experiencing more likely: get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you are good at and what your potentialities are not.
  8. Find out who you are, what you are, what you like and don’t like, what is good and what is bad for you, where you are going, what your mission is. Opening yourself up to yourself in this way means identifying defenses–and then finding the courage to give them up.


Derek Sivers says, “Be willing to make decisions that may fail. Even though failure may have negative consequences, it also yields important positive results. It ultimately teaches you to succeed. You can’t be a true authority unless you commit to being a lifelong student.

If you quit too early, you’ll never complete the shift from novice to expert. The expert level is where most of the rewards are found.

Understand that failure and success are not opposites. Failure is an unavoidable part of success. When you fail, it means you’re taking action, so you’re making mistakes and educating yourself. Success happens naturally once you finally learn how to take the correct actions.

Don’t pressure yourself to achieve massive success the first time out. Just do the best you can. At first, your best may be barely above idiot. Eventually you’ll gain some basic competency, and farther down the road, people will call you an expert. An expert being a person who’s failed enough to succeed.”

Want to share your failures with me?