Double Your Rate of Failure

March 4, 2011 — Leave a comment

“Would you like a formula for success? It’s simple.
Double your rate of failure.”

Thomas Watson – Founder of IBM

Last month I watched a fascinating biography on Jay-Z where he echoed Watson’s thoughts:

“I’ve learned everything from failures. I haven’t figured out how to learn from success yet.” (watch it and read my synopsis of it here).

Staggering to hear from someone who has experienced so much success.


There are obviously numerous applications to college ministry:

  • Pioneering new areas
  • Finding better ways to contextualize the gospel to this generation
  • Becoming more effective in our systems

Success in those areas will usually come by learning through rapid failure and improvement.


But today in my Quiet Time I just connected the dots to my spiritual life.

How could “double your rate of failure” be the formula for success in the Christian life?

Obviously failing more (sinning) is not the best way forward. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” Romans 6:1-2 (read here for John Piper’s great explanation of this text)

But, the formula for success in the Christian life just might be doubling your rate of recognizing your failure.

Repentance. Rapid Repentance.


Tim Keller in his article All of Life is Repentance:

Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing “the 95 Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.  The very first of the these was: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Repentance is how we move forward in the Christian life.

Pervasive, all of life repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus.

photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos


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