Learning From Failure

Eliezer Steinbock
4 min readJul 28, 2019

A short collection of quotes by highly successful people on failure and its celebration.

Marc Andreesen

“I’m old-fashioned. Where I come from, people like to succeed… When I was a founder, when I first started out, we didn’t have the word ‘pivot.’ We didn’t have a fancy word for it. We just called it a fuck-up…

We do see companies, that literally every time we meet them, they’ve pivoted. Every time they’re off to something new, and it’s like watching a rabbit go through a maze or something.They’re never going to converge on anything because they’re never going to put the time into actually figuring it out and getting it right.” (Tools of Titans, page 171)

Peter Thiel

“I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn anything at all because the failure was overdetermined. You will think it failed for Reason 1, but it failed for Reasons 1 through 5. And so the next business you start will fail for Reason 2, and then 3 and so on.

I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralising to people in the long run, and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy. It’s not some sort of beautiful aesthetic where there’s a lot of carnage, but that’s how progress happens, and it’s not some sort of educational imperative. So I think failure is neither a Darwinian nor an educational imperative. Failure is always simply a tragedy.” (Tools of Titans, page 233)

Jason Fried

“You’ve heard it over and over: “Learn from your mistakes.” Or maybe you’ve heard “fail early and often.” There are plenty of catchy quotes about failure. Most of them end with a clever little twist that makes it sound like it’s a good thing. Is it?

I don’t understand the cultural fascination with failure being the source of great lessons to be learned. What did you learn? You learned…

Eliezer Steinbock

Founder: Skilled.co.il & Draft Fantasy. Full stack JavaScript Engineer. https://elie.tech