Using the 10-10-10 Rule to Learn from Failure

14.02.2020 |

Episode #6 of the course Bouncing back from failure by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“Success and failure are both part of life. Both are not permanent.” —Shah Rukh Khan


Welcome back!

For this lesson, Jordan will show us that by using the 10-10-10 Rule, you can detach your failure from the present and examine it in the grander scheme of time. What looks like a failure now could be setting you up for success in the future.


Turning a Failure into a Success

In the late 1980s, Pfizer was trying to create a new drug that helped people with chest pain. Despite spending large sums of money on the product, it never reached its goal of relieving patients’ chest pain. But the drug trials turned up interesting side effects. Men who tested the drug felt friskier around their partners. Pfizer had inadvertently created Viagra, which became a blockbuster drug to combat impotence. This is a great example of larger, longer-term success hidden in an immediate failure. Fortunately for Pfizer and many future patients, the team running the trials followed up on these odd results. It would have been easier for Pfizer to quit and say, “Well, we didn’t hit our goal of making a medicine to relieve chest pain, so we failed.” But while Pfizer failed in the short-term game of making chest pain medicine, they succeeded in the larger and more profitable game of helping men with sexual dysfunction. What techniques can we use to remind ourselves in the present to examine our failure over a longer time horizon?


The 10-10-10 Rule

The 10-10-10 Rule is a thought experiment that you can use to analyze your failure from multiple time horizons. To use the rule, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How will I feel about this failure 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now?

2. Will I even remember this failure 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years from now?

3. Could this failure turn into a success 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years from now?


Putting the 10-10-10 Rule into Practice

I remember a time when I was turned down for a job that I particularly wanted. In the short term, I was feeling hurt. But then I thought to myself, “How will I feel about this failure ten minutes, ten months, and ten years from now?” Ten minutes from then, I figured I would still be upset about it, but life would move on. Ten months from then, I didn’t think I would still care so much about this misstep. Ten years from then, I assumed that I wouldn’t even remember being passed over for the job. So, why should I be upset about this scenario right now?

Then it occurred to me, “How could I turn this failure into a success ten minutes, ten months, or ten years from now?” Ten minutes from now, well, at least I made it to the interviews and got some experience. Ten months from now, I learned that the interview provided me with the vital experience that I needed to help me improve my interview skills to land my ideal job. Ten years from now, by learning how to interview and land my ideal role, I was able to build a rewarding career, and I could share this story with others to help them through the same experience.

By using the 10-10-10 Rule, I was able to put my current setback into perspective. I used what I learned from that experience to make myself more effective.


To Do

1. Open your bounce back journal to practice this exercise.

2. Ask yourself how you will feel about this failure ten minutes, ten months, or ten years from now.

3. How could this failure turn into a success ten minutes, ten months, or ten years from now?

In our next lesson, we will discuss how to recognize the forces that keep you trapped in the past.

Joe and Jordan

Bounceback Mentors


Recommended reading

Jordan’s Quora answer to “What is the biggest lesson that life has taught you?


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