Personal Development

Failure Contest

Written by Karol K

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

This quotation is so recognizable that it’s almost like a cliché. But. It. Still. Is. Perfect.

So it got me thinking … would it be worth to start a failure contest? One defined as:

Failure Contest – a competition you have with yourself to find out how many times you can fail before achieving success.” -Karol K.

The whole idea of the contest is pretty simple. You just have to choose one area of your life you want to improve. Set a specific goal you want to achieve. Come up with one activity that can help you to achieve it. And finally, do this activity as many times as you can, and keep track of every failure along the way. Do it until the goal is achieved. The higher the number of failures the better.

Fail fast. Fail proud. Fail forward.

Now the most important rule: treat each failure as a positive outcome. Get into a mindset of “Yay! I failed again!” Remember, you want to get a high score in this contest, so you need to enjoy every step towards that score. Failure is a good thing, learn to enjoy its company.

The example that follows is meant to show you how a failure contest can be applied to a specific situation. You can use the general idea and apply it to any other goal you’re aiming for. No matter if it’s blogging, building up passive income, or something else.

Let’s say you have a business and one of the most crucial challenges for you, like for most businesses, is getting customers or clients. This is how the Failure Contest might break down in such a case:

  • The area: client acquisition.
  • The goal: getting 20 new clients.
  • The activity: cold-calling.

In the next step you start calling people and keeping track of every “no” you get. What do you think, how many people you will have to call to close 20 new deals?

  • 20? – impossible.
  • 40? – highly unlikely.
  • 100? – more like it.
  • 200? – probably.

So how is failing 200 times any good for you?

There are so many benefits in having this contest that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe let’s just begin with the most obvious one – you achieve your goal (for our example – 20 new clients). Achieving goals, even the smallest ones, gives you a massive boost in confidence, no matter what area of life or business we’re talking.

Second benefit – you get more than you would have gotten without starting the contest. Picture this, would you be willing to make 200 cold-calls just for the sake of it if you weren’t doing it before? Would you have the drive to go forward if you only got 2 new clients after calling 50 people? Maybe you’re the tenacious one, but I’m not, so I’d stop.

Having a contest gives you a reason to go forward no matter the amount of failure just because that’s the whole point of the contest. And inevitably, you end up with more results.

Next benefit – you gain real experience. After cold-calling more than 200 people in a short period of time you should know (or at least have some ideas on) what you’re doing wrong. You can tell whether your approach has any sense or not, or what would probably be a better one.

Next one in line – your skin gets thicker. After being rejected 200 times you will surely develop the skill to not give a damn when people shut their doors on you most of the time. The best thing about failures is that it’s the first ones that hurt the most. If you know your success rate, which may be 200 unsuccessful calls for every 20 successful ones, you can stop caring about the sole fact of being rejected. And instead remember that on average as soon as you’re done with 10 unprofitable calls there’s this one that brings you a new client.

Another benefit – you can work on improving your skills. This somewhat connects to gaining experience, but I think it deserves a separate point. Remember, a mistake is only a mistake when you don’t learn from it. During the contest you have to keep track of everything you do, so after you’re done you can review the whole process and find its weak and strong points. Eliminate the former and put more focus on the latter next time around. Your all-time high score in the Failure Contest comes at your first go, which in my opinion is great!

I’m not done yet. You can take the whole Failure Contest and turn it into an event for you and your friends. You just have to choose an area and a goal suitable for each one of you, and see who gets a higher score. Now a riddle for you: who is the real winner after such a group contest, the person who achieves the goal with the lowest number of failures, or the person who achieves the same goal with the highest number of failures? For you to decide.

When is the best moment to start?


Just look at what you’re doing for yourself personally or for your business. What do you struggle with the most? Choose this thing as your area, set the goals, choose the activity and begin right away.

My own experience

Let me quickly share an interesting result from one of my own failure contests.

I train in a Brazilian martial art called Capoeira. Certain moves in Capoeira are quite difficult to perform due to many reasons. So a while ago I chose one specific move which I knew nothing about at that time, just to check how many repetitions I’ll have to do before I’m somewhat satisfied with the result. The contest ended at around 160.

The most astonishing part happened afterwards. I found myself not bitching about how pointless it was because I had to do it over 160 times before it looked cool, but instead I was amazed that I ONLY needed 160 tries to learn a completely new move.

So here’s a task for you: choose the area, set the goal, begin the contest. And most importantly – tell me what you think about this whole idea.

Some Amazing Comments


About the author

Karol K

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance blogger and writer. If you want to start a freelance writing career, feel free to visit him at YoungPrePro - a blog with freelance writing tips.


  • I’m teaching snow skiing during the winter time here in Canada and one of the skills I teach the intermediate level skiers is known as a hockey stop. This is when a skier stops on the snow much like hockey players do on ice skates. It’s not an easy technique to pick up and many beginners and intermediates will get frustrated when attempting it at first. But I tell them in advance that they will have to probably try it at least 30 to 40 times before they can get a decent hockey stop in. Once they are able to do a decent hockey stop, it’s a skill that they will always want to use when skiing.

    So I tell them that in order to learn to execute a hockey stop, they must start at number one and pay their dues to work their way towards attempts 30 or 40. Each attempt will usually be better than the previous one. In fact, I start them off during the ski class in a drill that teaches them to start attempting hockey stops on skis and it shows them that the initial failures will bring them slowly towards a decent hockey stop technique.

    • That’s a great approach. And I can only agree with the numbers as I recall me learning the hockey stop on actual ice skates. :)

  • Great idea and since I have a rather BIG goal on my plate at the moment I’ll definitely incorporate it into the plan. I think it’s so important to redefine our view of failure so that it strengthens instead of weakens us. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • How true. Success is measured by the number of failures but yet we still despise failure. Although I know this for years, read about it hundreds of times, and my most valuable learnings come from it, I still find it difficult to face failure. I guess our culture seem to value success so much that we avoid them. Will it help if we hang out with ‘bunch of failures?”

  • The failure contest sounds like a great idea. I am going to set a goal for myself and see if I manage to beat the odds. The quote by Michael Jordan is one of my favorites. Your post is definitely a winner!!

  • Very nice article. Great attitude of learning from mistakes. I have quite good career but still not the one I cherish about. I will implement this “contest” from today itself and will not stop until I achieve it. Very nice article to start day… Thanks a lot

  • Love this, Karol!

    I’m a teacher by trade and tell me students this every year. I tell them to celebrate their first fail because that will tell them exactly what NOT to do for the next exam.

    I tell them that every failure is a light that turns on in the darkness, leading them to a new discovery. I love the way you conceptualized this principle here!

  • Well said, Karol. One of my heroes is self-made millionaire, Samuel Clement Stone. He started as a door to door salesman who enthusiastically welcomed every NO because it meant he was one step closer to a YES. When we devote our lives to generating excuses for why life was tough and failure inevitable, we develop a disgruntled mind that scoffs at the idea of a life with a bright future in a beautifully rich world. I make it a point, to let nothing be bigger in my life than learning the lessons of my defeats and failures.

  • I agree, “treat each failure as a positive outcome”
    is definitely the key to the success of this failure project.

    This article reminds me of the 10,000 hour rule. Where if you spent 10,000 hours doing a specific action then you would have become an expert at that skill.

    I’ve already started my failure project prior to this article I’m just going to continue with it.

  • Hahahah… This is so so so so good.

    The world needs to hear it, and it reminds me of another recent post by Amber Rae ( )

    Yeah, I learned this too, Karol.

    8 failed businesses in 6 years (I think 12 total in my life if you count childhood attempts). I lost count of the ‘failed products’ I created (and they were BEAUTIFUL :P).

    Homeless (TWICE, WTF!), arrested, betrayed, lost all possessions, etc.

    Some would call this failure, I call it success, and now I stand for ‘sexy success’ and teach it to others.

    I’m really pleased to read this.

  • Love this concept. I have done failure challenges before, but I’ll tell you what. I completely got bogged down in the minutae – especially lately – and forgot about the goal.
    This is awesome and I wanted to thank you for the post. It hit me at the absolute perfect time!

  • Love the idea behind this – make friends with failure because it’s the twin sibling of success!

    The main reason why people don’t want to fail is because they don’t like how it feels. Do it enough as you suggest and you’ll get to used it and then you’ll no longer respond in the same way.


  • Hi,Karol,

    You are SO right. When things don’t go my way or someone says, ‘No thanks!’ to me, I thank them for bringing me one step closer to the person who is going to say a very enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ to me.

    We fear failing, which is funny to me because if each of us didn’t fail, yet carry on, every adult you know would still be crawling rather than walking upright.

    Besides some of the best failures turned into what I call ‘Happy Accidents’. You can read more about Happy Accidents here:


    • You bring up a good point, failure truly is a constant element in our lives. We should learn to live with it and try to push it even more until something happens that can be named a success.

  • Hello there,
    This article is very practical and motivating. Theoretically we all know the Napoleon and the spider story in which Napoleon takes his strength and motivation from the repeated attempts of a spider to be successful after several tries to build his web and goes on to be one of the most successful conquerer in the history of the world but we often consistently stick to this principle of being persuasive in one’s attempts till the success is tasted. Thanx for again reminding me the importance of patience and failure in getting where you want to be. I will surely start this contest from today itself and share it with all my loved one’s. Keep up the good work.

    • What’s also important is to be able to embrace the failures. I mean, we have to be able to recognize a failure when it comes to us. Some people just can’t accept it, and are ready to proceed working on a project that has already failed because they can’t see it.

  • This is a unique way of looking at the failure principle that is pretty practical (i.e. ppl might actually use it). So I’m all for it.

    I teach conversation skills and let me tell you…if you’re shy or socially awkward, failure and a little embarrassment is just a part of getting better. So kudos! This is a sound basic fundamental

    • Yes, we experience small, little failures all the time. We need to learn how to deal with them first (or how not to let them get under our skin).

  • I think that we can have failures everywhere and almost every day, and the only thing left for us is to get experience from all of them and make conclusions. But we certainly shouldn’t stop. Remember, that practice makes perfect)

  • This is such an important point that so many of us forget! I was a broadway actor and also traveled around the world. The percentage of ‘failures’ was 98%! I went to hundreds of auditions, to only be told “thank you” and never anything else.

    If you keep on going, eventually one connection turns into 2 and so on. The amazing thing is that one of those new connections can many times pay you back like you never believed!


    • Yes, it’s always about how soon you can get up and try one more time. We all take part in a failure contest constantly, whether we like it or not.

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