5 Books About Failure That Will Inspire You To Fail Forward

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May 28 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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As a society, we seem to have an aversion to failure. We prefer to focus on our victories, being the best, and highlighting our accomplishments. It’s understandable; failing doesn’t feel great and no one likes setbacks. But there’s a reason why our parents and teachers always told us mistakes are how we learn. Failure is necessary for growth and success.

Instead of avoiding failure, we should embrace it as part of the learning process. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to do that, pick up one of these books about making the most of your setbacks:

Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor and psychological safety expert, explores the concept of failure and how there’s a difference between failing and failing well in Right Kind of Wrong. She draws on her extensive research to challenge our thinking regarding failure, arguing that learning HOW to fail is the key to success. There’s no need to be afraid of failing if you can approach it with the right mindset. Edmondson’s book provides real-life stories, tips, and strategies to shift your perspective from fear and shame to curiosity and growth. 

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Sometimes, the best way to shift our thinking is to read about someone else’s experiences. When we see that others have failed and risen stronger, we’re more likely to believe we can do it too.

In How To Fail, Elizabeth Day shares personal stories of failure and how she grew because of what went wrong in her life. She believes that, since failure is part of life, it’s how we react that makes the difference. The book is an extension of her podcast, also titled How To Fail, and aims to normalize failure with honesty, humor, and vulnerability.

Although we know perfection doesn’t exist, that doesn’t stop us from striving for it. We become afraid of failing and taking risks as a result. One of the unintended consequences is that we end up missing out. 

In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani uses the experiences of women from around the United States, including her own, to advocate for bravery in the face of failure. She addresses how society teaches boys to be brave and girls to play it safe, which leads to perfectionism, fear of failure, and ultimately, holds us back from going after what we want. Women need to stop people-pleasing, let go of unrealistic expectations, and push past their fears and insecurities. Saujani touches upon all of this, providing practical advice and tips to build healthier mindset habits around failure.

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In The Perfectionist’s Guide To Losing Control, psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler tackles the topic of perfectionism from an interesting angle. Instead of working to break our perfectionist habits, we should use them to our advantage. Morgan Schafler identifies five different types of perfectionists and discusses how to make your version work for you. She uses stories from her personal life and her sessions with clients to demonstrate that you don’t need to stop being a perfectionist; it’s all about learning how you operate and leveraging it.

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In How Women Rise, leadership expert Sally Helgesen and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith examine twelve habits that are surprising obstacles to women’s success. These self-defeating behaviors, such as people-pleasing, minimizing your achievements, and trying to do it all yourself, may have brought initial success but often end up working against women looking to continue advancing. Helgesen and Goldsmith break down each of these habits, providing clear guidance on how to effectively overcome them.

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Marta Kargol
By: Marta Kargol

Marta Kargol is a former educator turned freelance copywriter who brings a unique blend of storytelling and clarity to her writing. She believes effective communication shapes ideas and focuses her efforts on finding creative ways to simplify complex topics. Marta uses her writing skills to help small businesses and solopreneurs share their purpose with authenticity. She is passionate about education, self-improvement, work-life balance, and wellness, all aspects of a holistic approach to success in life. When she isn’t writing, Marta enjoys traveling the world to experience new cultures. Learn more at or reach out directly at

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