Failure Can Create Some of the Biggest Successes

Failure can create some of the biggest successes if you’re willing to get past any embarrasment.

Late last year I found out that one of my favorite drinks was actually created by accident. Growing up in New Jersey every other street corner had a 7-Eleven store that sold my favorite drink—the Slurpee. However, the Slurpee was the result of a failure. The owner of a Dairy Queen in the 1950s had some old machinery that was always breaking down. He put some of his soda bottles in the freezer to try to keep them cool. When he took them out, they were slightly frozen and delightfully slushy. He found out that his customers loved the half-frozen drinks and the ICEE was born! Years later 7-Eleven took the marketing to the next level, renamed the machine and the Slurpee was born. According to a recent CNN story, since 1966, close to 6.5 billion Slurpee drinks have been sold.

The Dairy Queen owner responded well to his failure and did these important things:

  • He looked at his failure with an open mind and served the imperfect drinks.
  • He recognized the opportunity when people liked the new, unintended drinks.
  • He took advantage of the situation by building a machine specifically to produce what his market wanted.
  • He involved his customers in product creation by running a contest and letting them name the drink.
  • He created a system to duplicate his success (machines) and sold them to other convenience stores.

What a smart man! He could have taken his failure personally, tried to hide it from everyone by throwing away the slushy concoctions, and moved on quickly, perhaps even purchasing a new machine that would have kept his sodas cooled to the right temperature. But what would we have lost if he had? By stepping back from the emotion of the situation he changed his life and the lives of many others.

What mistakes have you made that had within them the potential for success? Could you have applied any of the Slurpee lessons to change your attitude about the failure? Please use the comment box to let me know of a time when something went wrong but the result was better than your original goal.

I hope you’re planning a POWERFUL week!

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7 Comments

  1. Roland Bonay says:

    Hi Allegra,

    A group of us were separated into teams and tasked to develop test procedures to demonstrate different features of a new product. We were instructed to follow a rote template to ensure that each procedure had the same look and feel. The person I was teamed with had a very vivid imagination and a great sense of humor. We decided to write our procedure in the form of a story in order to immerse the customer in the use of the product.

    We presented our draft to our group leader. He presented it to his project manager who thought it was silly. We were directed to re-write it in the dry manner of the other procedures.

    Our group leader thought it was a great procedure and managed to leak a portion of it to the customer. The customer was thrilled and wanted to see more. Ultimately the entire group was directed to follow our style. We ended up directing the formal demonstration of the product. It was a huge success.

    Roland

    1. Allegra Sinclair says:

      Great story, Roland! It takes courage to be the first to do something different.
      Thanks for stopping by, Allegra

  2. Trish Kirby says:

    Hi Allegra,

    Great post! I never knew that about the Slurpee but even better is how success came out of what one would take as failure. It’s all in the perspective that makes the difference. I’m still learning how to do that. Great lesson to be learned!

    God Bless,
    Trish

    1. Allegra Sinclair says:

      Hi Trish,
      Thank you! I lived on Slurpees growing up, there is nothing better when it’s hot and sticky and you can’t get to the beach. I hope you’re having a great week!

  3. Steve Nicholas says:

    Great post, Allegra! I really like the idea of finding success in failures. I also read somewhere that Post-Its were invented when someone at 3M was trying to make a super-strong glue that failed. Sometimes, failure is life’s way of telling us, “You’re on the right track, but it’s something else.”

    1. Allegra Sinclair says:

      Hi Steve,
      You’re right! Post-its are another great example of turning a failure into a huge success. Thanks for reminding us. Have a powerful week! Allegra

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