Is Failure Absolute?

Is Failure Absolute?

By Bruce Hammond, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

In the vast majority of cases, especially in the association industry, the answer is no. While we may not always hit our goals, the overwhelming likelihood is that we haven’t completely (and absolutely) failed.

This idea piqued my interest and got me thinking when I recently read a post titled Certain Failure on Seth Godin’s blog. In the post, Seth talks about how in everything we do, we are certain to fail to some extent, and that we need to accept that for what it is as we push toward making an impact. Failure is certain, but rarely absolute.

So let’s think about how this manifests itself in the things we do every day as association professionals. We aren’t going to convert every prospect into a member, which means we failed to some extent. We aren’t going to get every person to whom we market the annual meeting to register. Failure! We aren’t likely to get every member who is eligible to sit for our certification exam. How can we even get out of bed after that failure?

In the purest sense of the word, they are “failures”, but would any of us really consider them so? Not likely.

So let’s up the ante a little… What happens if we fail to achieve one of the aspects of our strategic plan? Did we fail to hit our goal? Yes. Is our organization still better off because of the progress that was made toward it? Likely, yes.

It’s unlikely that we converted zero prospects into members, got zero registrants for our annual meetings, or had zero of the members eligible to sit for the certification exam. It’s also unlikely that we made absolutely no progress toward our strategic plan’s goals. That would be absolute failure, and it rarely happens in our work.

So even though we can and should be frustrated when we don’t meet our goals, we should also take heart to know that we are making progress, having success toward achieving our mission and goals, and moving the association forward.

So as I close, let’s flip this concept on its head for a moment. While we may not always hit our goals or achieve our strategic aspirations that the Board and leadership lays out, in likely every one of those situations there has been not only failure but success. As you do your daily work, think about all of the successes you are having and keep pushing toward your goals.

While some level of failure is all but a certainty, in most cases, so is success.


Bruce Hammond serves as Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Photo Credit: "Do not fear failure" by Tomasz Stasiuk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0