Failure. It’s everywhere.

It’s the ‘ducking’ autocorrect fails when trying to send a strongly worded text.

It’s the failure to walk past the couch without smashing your little toe into it.

It’s the failed attempt at the Disney character birthday cake your child so passionately requested.

It’s those decisions you make about a potential significant other, a business move, a financial endeavour, a right turn on a road trip, all of which leading to the need for hashtags like #epicfail

And yet somewhere along the line we began to attribute shame and negativity to failure and turned it into a dirty word. We have forgotten about the incredible lessons that comes with failure, the unexpected discoveries and the exponential growth that comes when things don’t go quite according to plan.


In school, we’re taught that success is the only option and quite frankly this sentiment leads to unrealistic expectations when entering the real world. Very rarely are we prepared for the rigors, heartache and mental anguish that comes with failures, no matter the size.

The fact is all of those failures, bad decisions and wrong turns have led you to where you are standing right now. They have so strongly contributed to who you are today, have expanded your knowledge and understanding and influenced your preferences and future decisions.

The only true failure is the failure to try at all.

The same can most definitely be said of #startuplife but is also relevant to established businesses. Whether starting out, expanding the business or introducing a new product or service, these events are wracked with potential to fail.

Cogniom failed numerous times with product ideas in the early days, always just missing the mark on what potential clients may need to make their lives easier. Those failures though, taught us something new every single time and eventually led us to the TANDM Suite. Now, 12 months later we’re about to release version 4, helping incredible organisations from community initiatives like Sunny Street to big corporates like Johnson and Johnson Medical.   

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Failure is hard.

Failure hurts.

Failure makes you ugly cry and question your very existence in this moment. Failure makes you want to quit. Failure makes you want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix for 76 days straight.

Failure is a mother trucking bitch.

So, as we wrap our minds around this new way of embracing failure rather than fearing it, here are some key lessons we uncovered from our own failures.

Tie your ego to the problem, not your solution.

It’s a pretty cool feeling when you create an awesome looking product that has pretty lights and performs really cool tricks. You show it to your friends who all agree its pretty neat, even your Mum agrees! But if the solution you’ve created doesn’t actually fix anything, or there is nobody wanting to use it, then this solution will be akin to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  

Take the time to really understand what the problem is, what challenges your potential clients are facing and you will find your way to the root cause from which a successful solution can often be developed around.

Listen to your clients.

Market Research.. it may sound a whole lot less exciting than creating a product with pretty lights that performs really cool tricks, but what is the point of creating something that no one wants to buy, or can’t buy, or has no use for?

These conversations you have with clients, end users, management teams and industry influencers will be so far more valuable than you could ever imagine. They are the ones who face the problem or the struggle every day and will provide you with thoughts, experiences, knowledge and insights and will help you build a genuine rapport and understanding of what they are experiencing.

Don’t be in such a rush to get to the development of a solution. Spend the time. Have the conversations.

Educate yo’self.

You don’t know what you don’t know – which can be even scarier than the current thought of failure! Accelerator programs, courses, books and podcasts will form part of the foundation you will build your business on.

Investment in education will help pave a pathway to success and arm you with the knowledge to know how to deal with the failures and grow from them. We have been exceptionally lucky with the accelerator programs we have been apart of.

A special shout out to the Australian Health Accelerator – whose lessons and textbooks we still refer to on the regular as we manoeuvre through growth and entry into new industries.  

Surround yourself with people who know better than you.

Bad days will come, successes will need to be celebrated, you’ll have a plethora of questions and will sometimes need help figuring out which is the right direct to be facing. Don’t ever forget how amazing you are in your own right with the things you are trying to achieve, but never be afraid to put your hand up and ask for help. Especially in the startup space, it’s a journey that should never be attempted alone. (remember, you don’t know what you don’t know)

Whether you are surrounding yourself with a team, surrounding yourself with advisors and mentors, other startups and startup success stories, or a combination of all the above, building your ‘tribe’ will provide an incredible well of knowledge, expertise and support you can draw from, and eventually give back to.

Life is a glorious tangle of incredible highs and excruciating lows. The successes as well as the failures will work to define you and the help you carve your path. It’s all inevitable, and we sure as hell wouldn’t be here without it all.

Failure isn’t a thing to be feared. Embrace them, own them.

The true test is getting back up, finding the lesson, and taking that next step forward.

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