Why You Need a ‘Failure Journal’

There’s surprising power in recording all the ways you screwed up

Danny Forest
Forge
Published in
3 min readMar 4, 2020

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Photo: Buyenlarge/Getty

AA couple years ago, after pushing myself to learn some new skills, I started a “win journal,” a running collection of the big and small victories that I achieved every day. It helped me whenever I was feeling discouraged — I could simply return to the journal and remember that I’m capable of accomplishing great things.

The win journal boosted my self-confidence, but there came a point when I wanted to make some bigger strides in my life. To do this, I knew I needed a clearer picture of what was working and what wasn’t. So to go along with the win journal, I created its antithesis: the failure journal. The self-awareness it’s given me has been key to my growth.

In a failure journal, you record your — you guessed it — failures. You can do this in either a digital or paper notebook (I use the Notion app). While chronicling your blunders may not sound as enjoyable as capturing your wins, the process is powerful. Not only does it help you remember your mistakes so you’re less likely to repeat them, it allows you to disassociate with the emotions around your failures and discover lessons in each one. You’re reframing failure as a necessary part of success.

Try to see every journal entry as a launching point for growth. For each failure, ask yourself these four questions:

What is the “failure?”

Describe what you consider a failure. Focus only on the intended result and the ultimate outcome — this is about noting facts, not emotions. For example, in my failure journal, I noted that I did not reply to an email in a timely manner and lost a good opportunity to connect with someone important.

What caused the failure?

Trace back your steps and see if there is a specific action that caused you to fail. The idea is not to blame yourself, but to simply understand what you shouldn’t do next time. My mistake…

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Danny Forest
Forge
Writer for

Polymath. Life Optimizer. Learner. Entrepreneur. Engineer. Writer.