top of page

Switchbacks not Setbacks

The idea that we should "learn from our failures" is a universal truth that most people have stated or had stated to them. A seemingly straightforward concept, it's anything but when it comes to the actual implementation of it.

The reason most people don't glean benefits from their experiences with failure is because they aren't properly prepared to fail. The process of dissecting lessons from our failures actually begins before the moment of failure occurs.

When we set a new goal for ourselves, begin a new experience, or try something new, one of our first and most crucial steps should be fully embracing the fact that failure will be a part of the process. Failure is inevitable, so why not prepare for it?

Let me be clear. There is a difference between preparing for failure and planning to fail. Planning to fail is simply not doing what it takes to succeed. Preparing for failure means having thought through what your next steps will be when a setback occurs.

There are three trademark habits I look for in someone that embraces failure. We'll cover each over the next three newsletters.

The first is that they turn their setbacks into switchbacks.

When climbing a mountain, it's an impossible strategy to make a beeline for the top. Instead, the better strategy is to make switchbacks. The same is true for any goal we are pursuing in life.

What is a switchback? It's an almost 180 degree turn in the complete opposite direction. Life will inevitably hand us setbacks. When it does, turn it into a switchback.

Remember that you may be going in a different direction, but you're still making progress.


Write down one recent setback you've had. Draw an arrow turning it around. At the end of that arrow, write down how you'll turn it into a switchback.


When has your life turned 180 degrees in an unexpected direction, and it turned out for the best?


"Fail often in order to succeed sooner.” -IDEO Slogan

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page