Learning from the Lessons of Failure to Be More Effective

Journal of Financial Planning: July 2021


Let’s face it, we all fail from time to time. In fact, if you didn’t fail, it would most likely be because you were not even trying. The problem is that most advisers tend to view failure negatively. And here lies the paradox; trying and failing can create an avoidance atmosphere that lends itself to failure because the very items that were necessary to result in some form of success were never attempted. Does this cycle sound familiar?

Let’s view this topic from a different perspective: Every failure is a lesson to learn from. Malcolm Forbes said it best: “Failure is success if we learn from it.” If we could take away from each of our failures some wisdom, we would likely be more effective in the future. It would also mean that the act of trying, failing, learning, and not repeating the same action would itself be a win.

As I coach advisers each week, I’m looking for the lessons to be learned from the failures that they have experienced. Then, I help them articulate and identify those lessons. You can learn a lot from your failures if you are open to doing so.

The following lessons are a handful of the more common ones that I see.

Lesson 1: Learning from Experience

Failure can teach you what not to do next time. Experience can be a great teacher, but you must be willing to be a great student. You have to choose not to repeat things that caused your previous failure. If you don’t, you in fact did not learn your lessons.

The common challenge of overcoming objections is an example. I was a financial adviser for 13 years, and it took me over a decade before I realized that hearing objections like “I’m busy,” or “I handle my own investing,” or “I already have an adviser” were objections that I could overcome.

Initially, when I came up against those objections, I had thanked them for their time and hung up the phone. In other words, for many years, I didn’t learn from my experiences.

Lesson 2: Learning Information

Failure can help you gain insights that you would have never known otherwise.

During a training seminar I attended, the instructor explained two ways to overcome a core objection (the real objection). The methodologies were the “Objection Resolution Model” and “Feel, Felt, Found” techniques. Once I honed these techniques, I applied them and realized that, although they weren’t foolproof, they did work much better than not doing them at all. These techniques helped me build resilience.

Lesson 3: Learning Resilience

Failure can build resilience as long as you don’t quit. You must make course corrections along the way and continuously keep at it.

Over the course of a few months of using these tools, I noticed that sometimes I could not overcome an objection. I realized that it was typically when the prospect was not fully being transparent with their core objection. I gave this scenario a name—the smoke screen. Instead of giving up, I created my own process called The Smoke Screen Technique to unearth a core objection so I could then overcome it.

Lesson 4: Learning to Succeed

Failure inevitably leads to success if you learn from any failures and keep reaching for your goals.

My success at overcoming objections didn’t happen overnight. With patience, practice, and persistence, overcoming objections became second nature. When I teach my clients to do the same, their success increases. In fact, one client makes a game out of seeing how many objections he can get and overcome in a day.

Why Learning from Failure Works

The lessons in this articles are just a few of the possible things that you can take away from adversity. Every obstacle is an opportunity for growth. 

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

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