There’s No Failure – Only Feedback

19 Dec 2012

There’s No Failure – Only Feedback

There’s No Failure – Only Feedback

It’s a common NLP phrase, worthy of exploration

Just watch any toddler
You’ll notice that she falls over. A lot! She often hurts herself in the process. But she just gets straight back up and has another go. And another. And another.
No failure - only feedback - toddler image


You can easily witness this resilience and determination in very young children learning to walk. They have no concept of failure. Every trip and bump is treated as feedback in the process of learning to walk. As a human being you’re designed to experience, to respond to feedback, and to get up and try again. And again. You were born to be resilient and successful.

You were not born to fail

There’s No Failure – Only Feedback, is a common belief that people who are successful share. You filter your experiences through what you believe. It follows then, that you are much more likely to lead a happy and successful life,  filtering your experiences through positive rather than through negative beliefs.

What is feedback?

Feedback is basically information that helps you improve.

Having a belief that everything you do is providing you with feedback, can help you learn and recover more quickly from mis-takes. You will look consciously for the learnings, make the necessary adjustments and move on. No beating yourself up need occur. The knowledge you gain and the adjustments you make will be filed away as experiences to add to the wisdom you accumulate over your lifetime.

What does, ‘There’s no Failure, only Feedback’ mean?

It means that anything you may have labelled as failure in the past can be reframed as feedback, that lets you know how or what you need to adjust to achieve success. Look at a would-be toddler again and notice how many adjustments she needs to make before she’s successful in walking.

If we all gave up trying after only a few attempts at walking, most of us would still be crawling around on our hands and knees! You’ll see that making mis-takes, using them as feedback and making appropriate adjustments is a completely normal and natural approach to learning and achieving success.

Beliefs don’t have to be ‘true.’

When examining beliefs, the test is not whether it is ‘true’, but whether it is ‘useful’. So, is a belief that there’s no failure, only feedback, more useful than it’s opposite?

Belief in failure

If you believe in failure, then it is likely to set you back more than is necessary. I’ve heard people talked about as being ‘destined for failure’. Where Failure sounds like some distant city! Probably a dead end! Some, who think they have failed more than once adopt the word as a noun to describe themselves, e.g., “I am a failure.” Failure in this sense appears to have become part of their very identity.


Labelling experiences or mis-takes as failures will often prevent you from trying again. You’ll become limited and unwilling to step outside your comfort zone. You forget that you’re a glorious being of light and love, put upon the earth to do great things.


On the other hand, you know that to become good at anything requires practice, practice and more practice. If you could be good at everything the first time you tried, we’d all be experts. It’s making those mis-takes, learning from them and having another go that develops expertise. There’s little learning in doing it right first time.

Failure prevents you moving forward

If you find you don’t have a natural ability in a new sport, language or skill, do you give up and move on to something else? You may have forgotten that practice, including making lots of mis-takes is all part of the learning process. In Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code he writes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in a subject to become an expert. How many mis-takes do you think someone who has practiced for 10,000 hours might have made in order to become that expert?

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” Henry C Link.
Failure, then is a concept rather than a reality

Those that take feedback constructively can learn from their experiences while those who take feedback as a personal affront are less likely to move ahead and develop. If you don’t take a chance because you are afraid of failing, then you have failed anyway.

There’s no failure, only feedback

Next time you’re tempted to give up or resign yourself to failure, think about that baby, overcoming incredible odds in her attempts to become a toddler. Then take on board the feedback you’re getting, either from the task itself or from others and, as the song goes, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.’

By the way, that song was sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in a 1936 film called, ‘Swing Time’. You can watch a clip here and notice how effortless the dancing looks. Only an expert can make it look so easy! Yet in Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to be the most famous dancer of all time and his stage and film career spanned 76 years.

Good job he didn’t believe in failure!

  • It’s natural for you to be resilient and successful.
  • ‘There’s no failure only feedback’ is one of the beliefs of excellence taught in NLP.
  • Beliefs only have to be useful.
  • Feedback is any information that helps you improve.
  • Learning from mis-takes is a key to improving and to becoming an expert.
  • Failure is a concept rather than a reality.
  • Make lots of mistakes to learn quicker!
What do you want to do now?