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Rajeeshwaran Moorthy on "Failing Forward" - The SmarTalks Show

Last Monday I took a virtual flight to Dubai to interview my friend Raj for the weekly Podcast Episode!

Raj is one of the reasons why I started my Podcast. He also has his own Podcast “Uplifting”, which I really recommend you to check out!


Raj kicked off the Podcast with a question:

Who do you think failed the most and bounced back in your life?

We all have someone in mind. A family member, a political leader, a business magnate, a friend. Hold onto the image of that person.

You are telling me that in the past 5 to 10 years you never had a setback? You never had a problem in your life? You never experienced failure?

Everyone reading this Blog had a time where things did not go well. We all failed and we thought that was the end. But now here you are, reading this Blog. You bounced back! The person who failed the most is actually yourself. Give credit to yourself! A lot of people do not do that.


A lot of people want to talk about success, but very few talk about failure. Today we will destigmatize failure.

First of all, failure can mean different things for different people. One person’s failure could be another person’s trial. What could be easy for us might very difficult for someone else. And what could be difficult for someone else could be very easy for us.


What do you think is the major difference between average people and achieving ones?

Raj explained that people typically assume success is a product of four main factors:

  • Family background

All of us have heard the saying “This person is doing really well because his family Is well connected”. Is that really so? Stating that success comes from our families would imply that all successful people come from well-connected families, which is far from the truth.

  • Wealth

The second assumption is that being wealthy will lead you to achieving great things in life. But if that is true, how come several Billionaires are self-made and came from nothing?

  • Opportunity

Coming from Asia, Raj heard this several times. "That person is doing very well because he was given an opportunity, I didn’t get an opportunity!"

However, this argument has no foundation because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Giving the opportunity to someone who does not appreciate the opportunity and has no clue of what to make of it, is the same as not giving the opportunity at all! Opportunity does not make you achieve great things, your attitude towards opportunity does.

  • The absence of hardship

And the last one, Raj's favorite: "Ah that person is doing so well because they did not face hardship in their lives” or “This person is successful because they had a terrible past and that motivated them to grow!”.

Basically, people are telling us that you must suffer otherwise you cannot be successful. If that is true, there are lots of people who are suffering right now. If that assumption holds true, should not they all be destined to success? Therefore, you do not really need a terrible past to be successful in life.


So, what is the major difference? The difference lies in the perception of response towards failure!

When you fail, what are you going to do next? Your next step changes everything! In that particular instance, what will you do?

When you experience failure, what is your next immediate step? Are you hard on yourself, are you learning from it? How do you perceive the failure?


There are some very big misconceptions around failure:
  • Failure is avoidable

Not true! If failure was avoidable, why do business leaders prepare strategic contingency plans? All great Leaders know things will go wrong and prepare for failure!

  • Failure is an event

Failure is not an event; failure is a pattern! Failure is part of a journey and the important thing is making progress. You fail, you learn and succeed, you fail again, you try again and raise the bar, fail again, etc.

  • Failure is objective

As we discussed before, failure is extremely subjective! What is easy for you might be difficult for someone else.

  • Failure is the enemy

People get so angry at failure. But what did failure do to you that you are so angry at it? Failure is simply a byproduct of our own actions, as simple as that.

The reason why we never want to talk about failure is because we do not want to accept the blame! We refuse to accept the responsibility for our failures. We treat failure like a hot potato and we try to blame someone/something else for our failures.

  • Failure is a stigma

We only talk about success. On Social Media, we typically share our successes. One day, I decided to ask my followers if they were interested in knowing more about my failures. Several people interacted because they learn way more from failures than successes.

When we fail, we make a mental association. Failing = Being a Failure. However, this could not be further from the truth! Since our parents got angry at us when we failed, we make this terrible association; what if our parents praised us when we failed, because we were learning something new? Our perception towards failure would be totally different.


Furthermore, since the chances of succeeding are slimmer than the probability of failing, should not we prepare more to face failure rather than success?


And that is the FAILING FORWARD concept

Failing Forward is a term coined by John C. Maxwell in his book “Failing Forward”.

Imagine you are attending a university class. If you fail, you go back and try it again. 
What people do not realize is that the first time we fail we score 33%. Then the second time we score 55%, then 60% and we finally pass. Every time we try again, we make progress. We are still failing, but we are making progress! Every time we try again we are not starting from scratch. The gap success becomes smaller and smaller, to the point where we do not even need to jump, all we need to do is walking across!

That means failing forward. When we fail, we go one step back and three steps forward! Until we finally succeed.


How can we fail forward? Ashley Good presented a very interesting model.

Ashley Good, failforward.org.


  • Detect failure

In the first stage, you must ACCEPT the failure. You must acknowledge that what you did went wrong and that is fine, forgive yourself. Due to ego, this is the most difficult step for most of the people because it is painful!

As we said before, we must know that failure is a pattern, it is not a one-off event.

  • Analyze failure

In this instance, ask yourself: "What is the reason I failed? What could I have done differently?". Look at the situation as if it happened to someone else; adopt a third-party perspective and imagine you were advising a friend who experienced failure and is sharing it with you.

  • Apply learning

Once you analyze, make sure you implement the learnings! You will notice that you are doing some things differently. You have some new ways to approach the problem. You changed your behavior, you changed your methodology, you asked for advice, and now you try something different.

  • Innovate

Remember, you might fail again! Failing Forward does not mean that you only fail once. It means that you go through iterative cycles failing and learning!

As illustrated by Ashley Good, you want to make better mistakes, smarter mistakes, more informed mistakes.

Things can go wrong again, but the most important things in the cycle is preparing your mindset that it can happen! When failure hits me, I can face it.


This process is of course costly and time consuming. But if it was easy, everyone would enjoy the failure, learn, try again and ultimately succeed. Unfortunately, most of the people fail once and give up.

We should look at our personal growth as a growth stock in the stock market. There are of course price fluctuations, sometimes the share price falls down, but when you zoom out and you look at a 10-year timeframe you notice that it always goes up.

The same applies to our growth, some months might be harder but overall we are better human beings!


Raj closed the Podcast with a story that I share here below for you:

There was a king living in his kingdom. He heard about a saint living in the jungle. A sage told him "If you go and meditate with him, he shall give you the ultimate truth of the world". So the king went on a journey, found the saint, meditated with him and at the end the saint gave him a scroll and said “Whenever you are upset in your life or whenever you are the most happy in your life, open this. This is the ultimate truth. 
The king took the scroll and went back to his kingdom; since he had been away for a long time, another kingdom was waging war! The king was almost going to lose the country to an enemy. At that time, the king remembered the scroll in his pocket. He immediately grabbed it and opened it, and read “This too shall pass. And the king realized for a second that the bad moment won’t last long, he will survive. He kept thinking how he could strategize and he ultimately defeated the enemy. That night, they threw a massive celebration! And when he was happy, the king remembered the saint's advice. He grabbed the scroll and read again: "This too shall pass". 
The reason why this story is powerful is that we should never let success go to our head and failure go to our heart.

Failure and success will happen consistently. The most important thing is equilibrium, balance, how you ground yourself and you keep moving on.

Always remember: The past informs the present to prepare for the future.

This is what we have for this weekly blog. If you liked it, please share it with someone who could benefit from a fresh perspective on failure!


Make your life a masterpiece, see you next week, we appreciate you and we hope you have an amazing day.

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