How to fail forward into perpetual momentum

Life goes boom for all of us at some stage. Yes, it will happen to us all. If life hasn’t gone boom, yet, the chances are that it will. When you least expect it. But the boom doesn’t need to be permanent. It doesn’t need to be a punishment, and it doesn’t need to be pervasive.  

It can help you get into perpetual motion. Meaning that no matter what happens, you keep moving forward. Failing forward. 

There is a great scene in one of the 30 (ish) Rocky movies (some of my favourite movies, by the way) where the great business philosopher (Rocky Balboa) was having a conversation with his adult son (Robert Junior). Robert Junior was asking his dad to quite boxing, because it was an embarrassment to him, as his son. Here was Rocky’s response: 

Actually, just before you read this, you might need to get into character, and say it in an Italian accent, and with purpose… 

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  

But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.  

How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.  

Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody.  

Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”  

If you ever watched that scene, you might be getting goose bumps right now! Like I am! 

Here is my take on failing forward or moving forward in Rocky’s words. 

1. Pain is temporary 

Your action after reading this is to get these words committed to memory. And internalise them.  

Because pain is temporary.  

When I say pain, I mean the pain of daily life. I mean the pain that Rocky talks about. I mean that pain that causes you to ruminate for 2 to 3 days over a conversation that went badly. Or a promotion that you didn’t get. Or an exam that you didn’t pass. Or a million-dollar business that you lost and nearly went bankrupt because of. All of these have happened to me. And more, including getting blown up in a switchboard, and spending a month in a burns unit. 

I don’t mean the pain of major loss or major grief, that pain is not temporary (if this is you, all of my love, and heartfelt sympathy). 99.9% of what happens to us in life is temporary, though. Seriously.  

So, why do we prolong the pain? 

Here is the action for understanding that pain is temporary, and that ‘this too shall pass’. 

Action: Stop ruminating and start reframing. Start asking yourself what you learnt, and what you would do differently next time. That is the way you get out of the negative self-talk loop. Develop what I call Power Thoughts – those things you can say to yourself or ask yourself when you find yourself struggling to move forward after a setback. 

2. Fail forward fast 

What exactly is failing forward you might ask? 

It is simply the process of dealing with failure in a way that helps you get unstuck, and back into action. The biggest challenge with failure is that it destroys your confidence.  

From a psych perspective, failures get lodged in your subconscious, and they stay there and keep coming up for you to think about, until you can get the learning. And then, most importantly, getting moving again. Getting started. Getting into action.  

As well as getting into action, failing forward is about knowing that you have learnt something, and making the decision not to let that happen again. Then, do something.  

Failing forward is about starting again, starting over, and starting afresh. With a fresh view, and a fresh perspective on the world, or the situation. 

Here is the action to fail forward by getting into action (sooner rather than later – the sooner the start, the easier it gets). 

Action: Firstly, schedule it. Put something into your calendar or into your diary to get you going again. To get you started. Once it is scheduled, you can then put a plan around it, and put some actions under it, if you need to. The most important thing is that you have and action in your calendar, that you will see and that will help to hold you accountable to start over. 

3. Perpetual momentum matters 

And what exactly is perpetual momentum you might ask?  

Put simply, perpetual momentum is about getting in action (see paragraph above) and staying in action. But staying in a new action. Not defaulting to where you were previously. It is about creating a new habit or process for yourself. Here is how you do that. 

You put a process around the failure. You turn the action that you took into something that is habitual, that is just the way that you do it now. The action you took was not just a once off.  

Every problem needs a process.  


Every time you fail, work out how to turn your new strategy or your updated actions into a habit. Into a process. Into a procedure.  

Action: You make it your mission to be consistent. To get momentum. You get perpetually into forward facing action. You take a problem, you put a process around it. You get the next problem, and you put a process around that. And the cycle continues. You become the guru of new habit formation, and new process deployment. 

So, pain is temporary. It sure is. Stay strong, you’ve got this. This too shall pass. If you fail forward, by getting into action after a boom event. Then, you make the change a habit, so that setback never shows up again. 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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