My Favorite Mistake — 240: The Military Approach to Learning from Failure: Insights from George A. Milton

Episode page with video, transcript, and more

My guest for Episode #240 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is George A. Milton, America’s Failure Coach.

George is the CEO of Failure Is Not The Problem, LLC, a consulting company that specializes in leadership development and training, life coaching, and motivational speaking. He is a United States Army Retired Colonel with over 30 years of experience as an internationally known Coach, and Speaker.

George failed kindergarten, failed the first grade, barely graduated from high school dropped out/failed out of six universities. George had some academic failures early in life, yet, he went on to earn multiple degrees, and was inducted into the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

His podcast is “Failure is Not the Problem,” and he’s the author of the books Failure Is Not The Problem: It’s the Beginning Of Your Success and Failure Is Not the Problem: It’s Your Leadership.

In the military, failure is seen as the starting point for learning rather than a devastating setback. This mindset, which was ingrained in Milton during his three decades of military service, emphasizes resilience and adaptability forged through failure. By providing supportive mentorship rather than punitive consequences, he showcases how the military fosters a culture of learning from mistakes.

We discuss that, his favorite mistake story, and more in today’s episode.

Questions and Topics:

  • How did you learn – was it in the Army – about responding to failure differently?
  • “It’s not the failure… it’s the response” — ARMY mentor
  • Was that widespread thinking? YES
  • Equation: Failure + Right Response = Success
  • How is punishment counterproductive?
  • Punitive approach didn’t work as well in units where that was the culture
  • Failure is not the issue, the issue is how you respond?
  • How does an organization make it “OK to fail”?
  • Team of Teams — Gen. McChrystal
  • In your experience… what was the Army’s views on learning from failure?
  • Gen. Welton Chase episode
  • How do we teach leaders how to “fail graciously”?
  • How can failing be “fun”? Does that help us learn?
  • The act of failing does not mean you are a failure