To Succeed, We Must Know Failure

26 Aug


Have you noticed that each Fall, many new articles are published supposedly teaching us how to Succeed. But one year later, an all-new set of “How To Succeed” articles is published, meaning the prior books must not have worked. The reason? This author believes the answer is easy: “To succeed, we must first know failure.”

That’s right: success requires a solid foundation and that foundation must be devoid of cracks. To avoid cracks in your success foundation, we must know what causes cracks. Consider a simple building: foundation cracks can be caused by poor design, weak cement, insufficient steel reinforcement, earthquakes, water intrusion, loose underlayment, and here in AFuzion’s Manhattan headquarters as I write this … water intrusion from storms. Any attempt to build a solid foundation without knowing the causes of cracks requires perfect luck along with blissful ignorance. In real life, continuous luck never happens so success requires knowing the causes of failure.


Several years ago while starting AFuzion, I needed firsthand Failure knowledge. Why? Simple – I had lost several friends in airplane crashes and I was working on my own pilot license. My 50+ years had many successes, however there were several instances of failure which I hadn’t fully explored. However, in aviation, there would be no opportunity for self-exploration of failures, so I realized I needed to understand the cause of past failures. Yes, I too had read hundreds of those “Success” articles mentioned above and found them helpful. Helpful at creating the successes but worthless at preventing my Failures. There’s the answer and it was a simple choice: I could either rely upon perfect luck to avoid dying in my airplane, or I needed to really understand Failure. I chose the latter.

For millennia, humans evolved knowledge by improving upon successes while simultaneously learning from failures. The quotation “Those who don’t understand history are bound to repeat it” rang true: early humans quickly learned two fundamental truths: 1) “If it worked the first time there’s no guarantee it will always work the second time”, and 2) “If it didn’t work the first time, it probably won’t work the second time”.

Now wouldn’t it be refreshing to have open discourse about our failures so that others could learn from and prevent repetition? The conundrum: authors mistakenly believe their reputations will be tarnished if others learn how often they failed … so much better to avoid Failure discussions and write only about Success! And that dear readers is why this Fall’s plethora of newly released Success articles will so closely resemble last year’s … until now.

I completed my piloting ground school not studying only successful pilot actions but also studying accidents and what caused them. In most aviation accidents, the ground and onboard fuel are unforgiving so it’s up to the investigators to help us learn from the failure. But my real career has been devoted to thirty years of avionics development – mostly successful but a few failures intertwined. While the successes were numerous (founding and leading three of the world’s largest avionics development/certification companies), failures sometimes occurred. Fortunately the Success spotlight shone brighter than the Failures meaning the latter could be cast aside. Ignored by most. I went on to write many articles and books about achieving avionics development success but never recorded the Failures. Until now. Truly, I learned from those failures. I learned they were more numerous than imagined because we optimistic humans readily gloss over failures. And I learned my failures were preventable as I never repeated a failure; instead I simply found the freedom to incur new failures interspersed with many successes. Did my successes diminish my failures? Only on the grand stage of Visibility which differs from real life. So now, with the help of my fellow avionics development colleague Mr. Joao Esteves, we have recorded for all posterity “How To Fail at Avionics Development”.   Yes, go ahead and read this Fall’s new batch of Success articles. Enjoy them and have good luck with them. But pilots (and avionics developers) who rely upon luck soon find it in short supply. Instead, try something new: study real failures and their causes. Mine. Ours. And hopefully not Yours.

For a free download of “How To Fail at Avionics Development” simply email or download free whitepapers here: Click here for free AFuzion Technical Paper download

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