Failure: The Great Teacher

By David Giuliano, Business Coach

I think we can all agree that failure is not a beloved or relished part of life. It gets a bad rap but truthfully there’s no better teacher. It’s been said you don’t know where you’re vulnerable until you fail. Very true. When making any major change, failure happens all the time. I have to address this issue because so many of my clients – a majority of who are lawyers and other business professionals – have very little tolerance for mistakes or failure. They punish themselves, twist others into knots, judge too harshly and risk doing irreparable damage. I completely understand what’s at stake when it comes to sensitive legal matters or other critical business dealings, but this reaction bleeds into every aspect of their lives and can hinder them and all involved from so much opportunity. It can also cause high employee turnover and terrible office morale, which can perpetuate a victim mentality.

Most of us do our best to avoid failure as best we can but sorry, it’s something you just can’t avoid and honestly shouldn’t try to. That doesn’t mean you should seek failure out; I’m saying if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. Failure will give you the best opportunity to grow if you don’t quit, retreat in the face of it, or succumb to the common insecurity that lies beneath it. In my former 25-year career in the auto industry, I was buying and selling about a thousand cars a year in the wholesale car market. There were many times I wasn’t sure of a car’s value or where I would sell it, but believed there was some opportunity somewhere. When purchasing cars, if I wasn’t losing money on a small percentage, I probably wasn’t doing enough. Sometimes I would take risks, other times not. When I played it safe, I missed chances to stretch myself for the benefit of my customers, which could be deemed a failure on my part.

In our efforts to avoid failure, there’s also a tendency – a yearning – to also try to be perfect. But perfectionism can often be the killer of progress, which is why I strive for excellence instead. Excellence allows for setbacks or breakdowns which will inevitably happen, but perfectionism often reaps nothing but judgement and stops us dead in our tracks. We obviously want to be smart when taking chances, like making big changes, but we can’t be too risk-adverse or let our fear of past failures hinder us. Failure is a stepping stone that, given the right opportunity, can elevate you. We have to be willing to fail in order to create change and grow to our highest potential.

We will all experience failure in our lives, from when we first learn to walk until our bodies fail and we leave this world. That’s going to mean hundreds, even thousands of failures of all types. Don’t focus on that. Think about the fun stuff first. How many times did you fall off a bike while learning to ride it? Or sink before you learned to swim? How many tests did you fail before you studied harder, asked for help and later passed? How many bad dates did you go on before you found the one? Some failures are going to be more painful than others, but with each one we grow, learn, and develop. Also, when you inevitably fail, don’t mark yourself as a complete failure or worse, pin that badge on someone else. You only fail yourself if you punish yourself for it. Learn from it, make corrections, and grow.

Some questions to help you get some clarity when dealing with a failure:

  1. What are you making this failure mean about you or others involved?
  2. What action, positive or negative, will you take as a result of it?
  3. What support or resources will you need to help you move through?
  4. What is the cost to your bottom line now by not dealing with it?

If you or your team are struggling with these kinds of issues with failure, please feel free to reach out and give me a call.


david-giulianoDavid Giuliano realized his true calling after a highly successful, 25-year career in the automotive industry. It was his gift of conflict resolution, which ultimately led him to the world of professional coaching. David went back to school to hone his natural abilities and earn the professional credentials needed. As a student at The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC), he realized that the fundamental key to life is being able to connect with other people, to information and to living in general. This insight became the impetus for his mantra “it’s all about connection.”  In 2008, David founded Without Boundaries Coaching and since then he has successfully served hundreds of business professionals and small to mid-size companies with conflict resolution and business expansion support. His coaching practice is built not just on theory or what he learned in coaching programs, but largely as a result of boots on the ground business experience. David recently returned to and resides in New Jersey.  However, his coaching services are helping business owners of all kinds all over the country through his company, Giuliano Mediation & Consulting, LLC.  David can be reached at (201) 264-6422 or by e-mail at

Leave a Comment