GAIN MORE SUCCESS
2. HAVE A FAILURE BUDGET
Set aside money for failure? Am I joking?
No, I’m not! Set aside money for failure.
Maybe it sounds odd. But come up with a
figure that you can use just to try random
stuff. Assume it will fail! But try it anyway.
Maybe $20 at an oyster bar, $200 for a
boxing class, or $1,000 to go to a distant
If it works for you to use an absolute
number, great. That’s perfect. But if you’re
not exactly a budgeter, I also have a mental
model I use in my life that can be a simple
way to think about this.
It involves deciding what figure game
you’re in. Call it the Number of Figures
Game. Let me explain.
When I was a kid and I started my first few
websites, I was in the two-figure game. Ten
dollars to buy a URL? Well, that expense
was approved. But nothing else was! I knew
I was in the two-figure game because I had
What was my failure budget? Anything
that cost two figures.
When I started 1000 Awesome Things, I
moved to the three-figure game. I was a
grown-up now. I had a job. I figured that if I
wanted to try something, try anything, and
it cost three figures or less—I would do it.
These days my podcast 3 Books is an
example of me spending my failure budget.
I really wanted to make a podcast that was
ad free, sponsor free, commercial free, and
just a piece of beautiful art. To me, anyway.
So I spend around $5,000 a year making
it. Flying to interview guests, production
costs, recording equipment. It’s a fourfigure
“failure budget expense” that I love
spending every year. Why? Because it’s
vastly improved my learning rate, too.
Can you keep moving up? Sure. How high
can you go? Well, if you’re a hip-hop star or
tech billionaire, maybe you’re in the sevenfigure
game. The number depends on you.
Your comfort level. Your risk tolerance.
My goal isn’t to tell you how many figures
you should plan to spend on failures. It’s
to give you a mental model you can apply
in your life to accelerate your loss rate and
therefore accelerate your win rate.
3. COUNT YOUR LOSSES
We always hear people say, “Count your
But you know what we never count? Our
failures. Our losses. The times we hit the
When we look at our flops, we’re really
giving ourselves credit for all the learning
and stamina and resilience baked into
those moments when we made ourselves a
One exercise we do in my family now is
going around the dinner table every night
playing a game called Rose, Rose, Thorn,
Bud. Roses are gratitudes or highlights,
thorns are flops or failures, and buds are
things we’re looking forward to. Even
though the research on gratitude points
to writing down five things you’re grateful
for as a path to a healthier mind and body,
what we find is that including the ‘thorn’
in the practice actually helps us even more.
Why? Because it helps us slowly work
against the natural muscle of “less failure
equals more success” and train our brains
to find the lessons and learnings that
come from defeat or setbacks.
Counting up our losses and taking pride
in our failures is really hard. Really, really
hard. We are taught to hide failure, feel
ashamed of it. And here we are talking
about wearing them as badges of honor.
What are some other ways to do it? If you
keep a journal, try writing down your
successes and your flops. Be honest, and
count your failures as they happen. Be
kind to yourself by giving yourself credit
for each one.
In a corporate setting, it means leaving
the gaps on your resume or your LinkedIn
profile. Even accentuating them by
sharing your travels while you were
between jobs or the six months you
took off to be with your daughter after
her second miscarriage. These failures,
through the lens of a wise recruiter,
actually strengthen who you are.
This is really hard for most people to do.
But people can’t tiptoe around all their
past failed relationships when they get
into a new one. I’m not saying they should
lay them out on the first date like a display
case of painted ceramics. We don’t want
to confuse counting failures with plain
poor judgment! What I’m saying is that
once you’ve built trust in a relationship,
then lay them out. Be honest and share
what you learned from each one.
So, yes, indeed, fail more, fail faster, fail
better! Doing so helps us move forward
by accelerating our learning rate and
being more connected and honest.
Now go use these three simple tactics
to start. +
Neil Pasricha is the New York Times-bestselling
author of The Happiness Equation
and The Book of Awesome series, which has
been published in 10 countries, spent over
five years on best-seller lists, and sold over a
million copies. Pasricha is a Harvard MBA,
one of the most popular TED speakers
of all time, and after 10 years heading
Leadership Development at Walmart he
now serves as Director of The Institute for
Global Happiness. He has dedicated the
past 15 years of his life to developing leaders,
creating global programs inside the world’s
largest companies and
speaking to hundreds
of thousands of people
around the globe.