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Fail Forward: Harnessing Challenges For Accelerated Growth In The Business World

Business Success

Mike Greene, entrepreneur, growth mentor, consultant, and speakerBy Mike Greene, entrepreneur, growth mentor, consultant, and speaker

As a successful entrepreneur, I have tried many things, failed at many things, and often taken the long route to success. In my mid-20’s, I found myself homeless and bankrupt after a successful start in retail and hospitality. In a matter of weeks, I had gone from having several successful franchised fast-food outlets to delivering Pizzas on mopeds for a friend. Looking for explanation and inspiration I found myself at the local library (the Internet and social media didn’t exist back then and so my need to understand and accept my failure led me to the library’s self-help section), where I discovered that the world’s most successful people often wrote about their failures on their journey to success. This re-inspired me, and I found myself increasingly reading quotes like, “Remember failure is an event, NOT a person,” or “Failure is success turned inside out.”

I also saw books about some of my childhood heroes like Richard Branson, who was already well on his way to becoming a Billionaire and yet his books highlighted how his journey was literally littered with Failure. Despite his challenges he seemed to fail, learn, improve and then succeed – again and again. More recently we see Elon Musk doing much the same and at an even greater rate of speed and success.

I believe failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s a key ingredient. I’ve come to understand that the fear of failure is one of the most significant obstacles holding people back from achieving their true potential. Throughout my journey, I’ve encountered countless individuals who have expressed their regret over not pursuing their dreams due to the fear of failure. However, as the old saying goes, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” It’s a sentiment echoed by many successful entrepreneurs and innovators who have faced numerous setbacks on their path to success.

Take, for example, the story of Walt Disney. Before creating his beloved empire, he faced rejection from over 300 banks before securing the financial backing he needed. Disney’s unwavering determination and willingness to fail forward ultimately led to the creation of one of the most recognisable and successful brands in the world.

Another prime example is James Dyson, the British inventor and founder of Dyson Ltd. In an interview, Dyson shared his thoughts on failure, stating, “I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So, I don’t mind failure.” Dyson’s approach to embracing failure as a learning opportunity has been instrumental in his success, with his company now generating billions in revenue annually.

Even the legendary inventor Thomas Edison, who held over 1,000 patents, understood the value of failure in the pursuit of success. He famously remarked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In my book, ‘Failure Breeds Success’, I delve deeper into the concept of failing forward and share insights from my experiences and those of other successful entrepreneurs. One key takeaway is that failure is not a reflection of one’s worth or potential, but rather an opportunity to learn, grow, and refine one’s approach.

Denis Waitley, renowned author and motivational speaker, said, “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” When asked what he would do differently if he could live his life over, Waitley responded, “I’d like to fail faster. I would take more chances. I would be less cautious… and totally ignore the criticism of those who are watching but not participating.”

Thomas J. Watson Sr., former CEO of IBM, emphasised the importance of taking risks and embracing failure, stating, “The only way to succeed is to double your failure rate. Success is a numbers game. You need to take more chances.”

So, how can leaders in the business world overcome failure and/or challenges?

  1. Study successful failures: Like Richard Branson and Elon Musk, learn from the failures of successful individuals who have overcome challenges on their path to success. Recognise that failure is an essential part of the journey and not a reflection of your worth or potential.
  1. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity: As demonstrated by James Dyson, who made 5,127 prototypes before getting his vacuum right, view each failure as a chance to learn, grow, and refine your approach. Don’t be afraid to fail forward.
  1. Adopt a resilient mindset: Take inspiration from Walt Disney, who faced rejection from over 300 banks before securing funding for his empire. Maintain an unwavering determination and willingness to persevere in the face of setbacks.
  1. Increase your failure rate: Heed the advice of Thomas J. Watson Sr., former CEO of IBM, who emphasised the importance of taking more chances to succeed. Be bold, take calculated risks, and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.
  1. Ignore criticism from non-participants: As Denis Waitley suggests, focus on your goals and pay no attention to the criticism of those who are merely watching from the sidelines. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who encourage and motivate you to keep pushing forward.
  1. Break down challenges: When faced with a daunting challenge, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Celebrate each milestone achieved along the way, as this will help maintain motivation and momentum.


In conclusion, failing forward is a powerful mindset that can accelerate growth and success in the business world. By viewing challenges as opportunities and failure as a valuable learning experience, entrepreneurs and businesses can unlock their true potential and achieve greatness. Embrace the journey, learn from your mistakes, and watch as your failures become the foundation for your ultimate success.

Mike Greene, Entrepreneur, Leadership Mentor, and Philanthropist

Mike Greene is a dynamic and visionary entrepreneur renowned for his extensive background in executive leadership, strategic business growth, and philanthropic endeavours. With a keen eye for innovation and a knack for fostering strategic partnerships, Mike is committed to cultivating strong corporate cultures while leveraging his business acumen to drive positive social impact and support local communities.

Mike’s commitment to nurturing entrepreneurial talent is evident in his investment portfolio, which includes over 30 start-up and growth businesses such as Shazam and Chargemaster. Currently, he serves as a mentor and strategic advisor to over 40 UK businesses, providing invaluable guidance and support to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Mike’s influence extends into the media realm, where he has been featured on Channel 4’s “Secret Millionaire” and is a regular commentator and pundit on business-related topics.

Following the programme, which had a great impact on him, he sold his main business and took a three-month sabbatical with the personal challenge to raise £100,000 for 100 charities in 100 days. He was successful in this bid and was inspired to go on to commit one-third of his time to help charities and mentoring people to change their lives for the better.

Renowned as a sought-after public speaker, he has delivered keynote addresses on business, investing, property, and education across the UK, Europe, US, Australia, and New Zealand. Additionally, he is the esteemed author of the book “Failure Breeds Success”.

As the Founder and CEO of Global Research Business, Mike successfully led the growth of a multi-million pound global research enterprise, ultimately orchestrating a highly profitable exit and the rebranding of the company as Lumina Intelligence.

Mike’s influence extends beyond his own ventures, as he has served as a main board advisor and speaker at events for numerous global corporations spanning various sectors including energy, retail, consumer goods, food and beverage, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and finance. Notable engagements include advising industry giants such as BP, Tesco, Coca Cola, and GSK.

Throughout his illustrious career, Mike has held various executive positions across multiple industries, driving strategic change and growth. Notably, he holds the distinction of being the youngest Chairman and longest-serving board member of the Association of Convenience Stores, advocating for over 33,500 small retail establishments in the UK.

Beyond the boardroom, Mike is actively involved in large-scale property development projects in the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire region, contributing to urban revitalisation and community enhancement efforts.

Driven by a passion for giving back, Mike has dedicated his time and resources to various philanthropic causes. From serving as a Trustee of Peterborough Cathedral to advocating for the establishment of Peterborough University, he remains deeply committed to making a meaningful difference in his community. Additionally, his role as an Ambassador for the Cambridgeshire Children’s Hospital underscores his dedication to healthcare advocacy and fundraising.

In addition to his professional pursuits, Mike embraces physical challenges and adventure pursuits. From sailing in the Clipper 2013/14 Round the World Yacht Race to summiting mountains like Kilimanjaro and Annapurna, he continually pushes the boundaries of achievement and inspires others through his endeavours.

Mike’s dedication to excellence has been recognised with an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Anglia Ruskin University. Furthermore, he has been honoured as one of the 100 most influential Leaders, Thinkers, and Agitators shaping the Grocery Industry, solidifying his status as a trailblazer in his field.




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