Reframe Failure As A Series of Small Wins

Failure feels miserable. But what if you could feel good, even when you fail by celebrating the small wins you make along the way?


It sucks, but it happens in all facets of life. Whether you’re in a band, acting in Hollywood, trying to get in shape or starting out in affiliate marketing, the first step in the process is usually a long string of failures.

  • Rock Stars. Played for years in empty clubs to no one
  • Famous Actors. Got passed over on their first 20 auditions
  • Ripped Guy/Girl at the gym. Worked out/dieted for years before figuring it out
  • Super Affiliates. Lost money on their first 10 campaigns

Most people that come to this site are new affiliates looking for their first big win online. So I’ll use affiliate marketing as an example. But you can replace “launching a new campaign” with just about anything else in life and it will be the same thing.

Launching a New Affiliate Marketing Campaign

You get excited. There’s a buzz about a new offer that is doing really well on mobile for a lot of people. You’ve never done mobile before, but you decide to give it a shot.

The Setup: 

  1. You contact an affiliate network that has the offer, introduce yourself to your affiliate manager on the phone and tell them what you want to do. They set you up with the offer, a decent payout and you’re ready to go.
  2. Next, you sign up at a mobile ad network that you’ve never used before. A rep calls you to talk about your plans and help you get your account set up correctly.
  3. You spend two days making banner ads and a landing page. It’s different than the web, so it’s frustrating and takes you more time than normal.
  4. Now you setup your campaign on the mobile network – there are lots of new targeting options you’re not used to so it takes a while.
  5. Finally you are ready for launch.

The Launch: 

  1. On the first day you spend $100 and make back $5.
  2. By the end of the first week you’re spending $200/day and making back $50/day.
  3. After two weeks of hard work you’re spending $200/day and making back $100/day.
  4. You do the math. You’ve spent $2500 and made back $1500. You’ve lost $1000.
  5. You have to pull the plug because you’re low on funds.


The Fail: 

  1. You stop the campaign
  2. You decide that mobile isn’t going to work for you
  3. You feel like a horrible, miserable failure. Again.

If you’ve ever launched a campaign that didn’t work, then you understand the process I just described. It’s very real and the emotional toll that it takes on you is heavy.

But if you take a deeper look at what just happened. You’ll see that there were a series of small wins – that you totally missed, that you can choose to feel good about.

Reframe Failure
You win several times on the way to failure.

The Reframe:

At the end of the day, your campaign lost $1000. So as far as profitability goes, the campaign failed. But along the way you had some major wins, which you should be feeling awesome about right now.

  1. You successfully created a relationship with a new mobile affiliate network and showed your affiliate manager that you will actually send revenue. You’re now on their list of affiliates to pay attention to. (Win)
  2. You successfully created a relationship with a rep at a mobile network. (Win)
  3. You successfully setup your first campaign on a mobile network, a skill you can use in the future to launch more campaigns. (Win)
  4. You successfully figured out mobile targeting and now know which carriers and handsets work best (Win)
  5. You successfully found a network that doesn’t require a cloaker. (Win)
  6. You successfully created banner ads at new size dimensions that you were previously unfamiliar with. Your new experience and templates will save you tons of time when you launch your next campaign. (Win)
  7. You successfully created a mobile landing page for the first time. You now have a template that will make your next campaign easier to launch. (Win)
  8. You successfully tracked your costs and revenue on mobile. Even though you lost money, you now have a system for tracking mobile ROI. (Win)
  9. You successfully improved the campaign from –95% roi to –50% roi and improved your skill of optimizing a losing campaign. (Win)

When you look at it this way, the campaign you previously saw as a failure can now be seen a series of small wins.

You actually won every step of the way. The only step that failed were the cpc vs epc numbers. And while they are the most important numbers in the campaign, they are not possible without winning on all of the smaller steps. And you dominated on all of them.

So Why Not Feel Good?:

In reality, the campaign you just launched is still a loss. You still have $1000 less in the bank than when you started. But guess what? No amount of regret and depression is going to bring that money back.

The thing is, if you continually feel like a failure, you’ll quit. So why not choose to feel good about it, turn it into a series of small wins and keep yourself in the game?

  • No one came to your concert? Your band got in a paid rehearsal
  • Binge ate last night? You learned you need to get out of the house in the evenings
  • Server goes down? You learned that you need a server uptime monitor

Remember,  The people that succeed aren’t necessarily the ones with the most brains or talent - but rather the ones who persevere.

Stay in a winning mindset and there’s a good chance that you’ll be standing on the shore, with your bags packed and ready to go – when your ship finally comes in.

  • Tom Mullaly

    After a tough couple weeks lately this post is exactly what I needed. Funny how reframing literally changes ‘reality’. I read your 9-item list three times Malan, because I can claim each point –and even a few more– as wins. Consistency has been thus far beyond me though in mobile, and it makes it hard. Thank you bud for the push to wake up again tomorrow and make some more lander variations!

    • Malan Darras

      You’re welcome Tom – and remember, we’re all right there with ya. no magic tricks, just persistent testing until it works.

  • Ting

    So true.. Thanks Malan, I needed this:)

    • Malan Darras

      you’re welcome Ting, glad to hear

  • Petre Veluda

    Fail as fast as you can. It’s hard after the first 3-4 weeks, but after you do this for more than 3 months it becomes second nature.

    Charles NGO said once that these days might take you one or two years to make it as an affiliate marketer. People are getting to $30/day profit after 6 months or go to $100/day profit in a couple of weeks. It depends on a lot of factors. But what do you do if you are still not making profits after one year? You keep pushing forward, that’s what you do.

    So a few weeks on red doesn’t say anything. You have to learn to love your failures, work hard and get as many as you can because without even knowing it, day by day you exponentially improve your skills, mindset and technique.

    • Malan Darras

      that pretty much sums it up. Some people hit a big campaign in the first month, some don’t find it for 6 months to a year. Trick is to simply stay in the game long enough to hit one.

  • Reid Yamamoto

    Thanks for the great post and advice on how to reframe our processes as wins–even on losing campaigns. It can be discouraging when offers aren’t converting, but if I look at my small wins like you said, I’m encouraged with my progress.

    • Malan Darras

      yeah Reid, it’s an up and down battle and we all have losses from time to time. just keep rocking and rolling my friend

  • Leo Young

    Great post, this is an awesome way of looking at things.

    • Malan Darras

      thanks Leo

  • Willy Enrione

    Thanks Malan, a lesson in angles…

  • Winston Dottin

    Understanding the bigger picture is very important to success