Failing Forward Is Still Failure

When I started my first online business, I was confused beyond belief. I needed to learn a framework or system to make money, but it was hard to trust anyone’s information. I was overwhelmed with all the sleazy sales pitches out there.

Some of the information was useful, but most of it was a complete scam. There were tons of people who never made a buck online until they were selling programs on how to make a buck online. We’ve all been exposed to this stuff. Welcome to the internet economy.

The problem was, at first I couldn’t tell the difference between the good and the bad.

I literally spent hundreds (thousands?) on various startup resources. I wanted to make it all work. No, I needed it all to work because I had bills to pay. I had this mentality that I was only one course or one book away from achieving a breakthrough business idea.

I was a good student, how hard could this be?

What I realized was that I was hitting several roadblocks at once. This kept me from monetizing online and making anything of value. Everything I made sounded okay, but in reality it was useless. Moreover, failing made me frustrated and depressed. I put in long hours to learn this craft and had very little to show for it. I had bits and pieces of business tactics, a string of silly domain names, and a short list of email subscribers. None of this mattered.

It was a huge failure.

They say in the startup world that failure is inevitable so you should try to fail forward. That is, fail in a way that will set you up for winning the next time. That’s a decent idea, but I always thought that was candy coating: Failure is failure.

I decided to stop everything, step back, and untangle the mess I created.

The Pattern Of Success

One day I got an idea to analyze the top ten trustworthy people in my niche who were making money. I learned that this is exactly what Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos did when he started out. I wanted to extract the patterns of success they all had. What were they all doing similarly? How do they build trust? Why were their products more valuable than others? How could promote my work and not use sleazy tactics?

I also wanted to learn about all the things that made people fail. What were their early mistakes? What should I avoid? What were some of the common points of failure? This analysis helped me understand why I was stuck in my own business.

Looking back, I can clearly see that everyone who was successful used a similar framework to get anything done. Sure, everyone’s path to success was different, but the common denominator was they all had a basic framework that helped them structure their businesses. I decided to simplify what I saw and put it into one framework.

The MSE Framework

This ridiculously simple framework consists of three major components. They are Mindset, Strategy, and Execution. With this, no project is too small or too big. It is never too simple or too complicated. This framework is the key to accomplishing any goal.

Everything  Starts With Mindset

Mindset is extremely important at the beginning of any project. If you have false starts, this is likely why. But mindset goes beyond the common talk about positive thinking and “growth” mindsets. 1 This is all of that and more.

My study of mindset revealed the complete mentality achievers possessed. It’s your job to find people who had the same goal as yours and adopt a similar mindset. That is, you not only have to do the same things as they did, you have to think and believe as they did.

For example, to get good grades, everyone will tell you to study hard. It’s all action based. We all know that’s only part of the equation. Studying tactics are easy to find, and putting in the time to study is a given. But what’s the bridge that will lead you to good grades? Hard work and academic confidence.

Confidence comes from within. You have to condition your mind to deflect negative thoughts, practice positive self-talk, and visualize your ideal outcome.

At first, I dismissed any form of visualization or affirmations. I thought it was too new age for my tastes. However, after studying several scientific studies on this topic, I was a believer. You see, these scientists discovered a few interesting things. In many experiments, visualization and mindset were the key factors in winning. 2 More importantly, I used these mindset tactics to achieve greater success.

This sounds like more theory, but try it out on yourself. Often in life, we have been our own motivation and inspiration. Take a look back and reexamine all the times you’ve won. How did you do it? Did you visualize the outcome? Did you keep saying something to yourself? All of these things counter negative thoughts and analysis paralysis. This process primes your mind to win. And in many cases, you probably did win. That’s mindset. But what comes next?

Strategy Is About Preparing For Action

After you begin creating the best mindset, you need a plan of action. To do this, two important aspects must be considered. You have to critically think about how your chosen strategy will be effective and efficient. That is, you have to know what will likely give you the right results (effective) and how to get there without wasting too much time or resources (efficient).

Most strategies and systems will show you how to define project goals, consider any influences, list tasks, and assign roles. When I started this framework, I got overwhelmed with the information on strategies. In business, strategies are endless. This lead to analysis paralysis. I learned that research, collaboration, and testing is how you achieve the best strategy.

Still, the best strategy will never trump execution.

Many things don’t go exactly how they’re planned. Even in business, the best business plans or models do not survive first contact with customers. 3 There are many roads that take you to Rome. It’s just the same with proven strategies. There are thousands of brilliant strategies, you just have to pick one and start moving.

The problem with strategies (and case studies too), is that your project never completely mirrors the exact same conditions of the model. The context is different. The timelines and access to innovations are different. Strategies, models, systems, and case studies serve as a great starting point but they’re not secret recipe to success. A key ingredient to strategy is to be flexible in the execution phase.

Execution Is About Getting Things Done

You must take the first step to achieving any goal. And then the next one. And the one after that. More specifically, you have to create value. Then you deliver value. Finally, you follow up and take care of your people.

When you execute, you are creating value and communicating with others. Revising, redrafting, and improving your original strategy is all part of execution.

No part of taking action involves perfection. This is something that often held me back. I wanted it to be perfect or nothing at all. This is a terrible way to work. Once I recognized it, I quickly adopted Jadah Sellner’s mantra:

Take Imperfect Action.

I had most of this right in my first efforts at creating a business. However, I failed at the communication part. I learned early on to document everything and look at communication as a process. In fact, since these are actions, I included them in the execution phase and things began to dramatically improve. In hindsight, that was a no-brainer. Looking at the results and other peoples’ wins makes this aspect crystal clear.

The Framework Always Shifts

The MSE Framework are three micro-processes housed in one big process. It’s like three cogs that keep an engine moving. During different phases of development, the framework shifts and makes a few changes. There is never a perfect balance between the three essential components. In fact, balance has been shown to inhibit progress.

So how does the framework shift?

Early in my experimentations with this framework, I was trying to figure out what priority I should give each of the components and phases. I knew they overlapped, but I didn’t know how much. I learned a lot about sequence and priority.

In the beginning, mindset is the dominant component. It’s what gets you to even take action. I like to think of Mindset as 60% of the job in the beginning. Strategy and Execution make up 15% and 25%.

At about the mid-point of the project, things start to change.

Mindset always takes a backseat to Execution when you start getting good results. Based on the pattern of success I’ve seen, I’d put the focus on Mindset at 25%, Strategy at 15%, and Execution at 60%. These are loose percentages of course, and they vary with different situations, goals, and people. However, I’ve worked with everyone from at-risk teens flunking out of school to Fortune 100 executives turning around billion-dollar companies. For the most part, this is the predictable pattern to how the framework shifts.

Mindset Worksheet image

The rationale is simple.

Midway through a project or goal, attention to the Mindset component gets redistributed to focus more on getting results and data. Once you gain momentum and you’re in the right mindset, what you need the most is putting in the time. That’s the Execution phase. Whether it’s creating value, learning, or improving a skill with deliberate practice, action is the dominant component.

I have just scratched the surface of the MSE Framework. Below is a snapshot of what it entails. This is one of four parts of a complete system I created to improve peoples’ lives. As you can see, the MSE Framework is a tool used for predictable success in any endeavor. To get coaching from me or to use it in your own coaching/training, contact me.

MSE mindmap

Share this on...
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn


  1. See Dr. Carol Dweck’s work in Mindset.
  2. Dr. Denis Waitley wrote about this in the 1970’s with his research on Olympic athletes.
  3. Professor Steve Blank was famous for making this saying popular in the startup community.


Hi, I'm Peyton. I help people and businesses dramatically improve through digital marketing and story. I'm based in Portland, Oregon — a magical and mysterious city enveloped by a Douglas Fir rainforest.
Close Menu