Spanx founder Sara Blakely learned an important lesson about failure from her dad — now she’s passing it on to her 4 kids

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, and her four kids.

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Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, and her four kids.
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Sara Blakely/Facebook

  • Spanx founder Sara Blakely is one of the richest self-made women in the world.
  • Blakely said her father encouraged her to always share her failures along with her accomplishments.
  • Blakely told Business Insider that she’s passing the lesson onto her four kids: “One of the parenting things I think is so important is not praising the child, but praising the effort.”

From a young age, Spanx founder Sara Blakely was encouraged to take risks.

In a Business Insider video, Blakely said her dad used to invite her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table. Instead of being disappointed or upset, he would celebrate their efforts.

“What it did was reframe my definition of failure,” Blakely said of the tradition. “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome.”

Eventually, Blakely began to find value in her shortcomings.

“My dad would encourage me any time something didn’t go the way I expected it to, or maybe I got embarrassed by a situation, to write down where the hidden gifts were and what I got out of it,” she said. “I started realizing that in everything there was some amazing nugget that I wouldn’t have wanted to pass up.”

While Blakely thinks “so many people don’t take risks for fear of failure,” she isn’t one of them. Despite having next to no knowledge about fashion design, retail, or business, she believed in the idea for her now-ubiquitous shape-wear company wholeheartedly. She spent two years – and $5,000 of her own money – diligently patenting the idea, finding a hosiery manufacturer, prototyping the product, and successfully pitching it to Neiman Marcus, all while working a full-time job.

Business Insider caught up with Blakely at Cosmopolitan and SoFi’s Fun Fearless Money event and asked if she’s continued her dad’s dinner-table tradition with her four kids.

“I’m already having that conversation with my 7-year-old. I talk to him all about, ‘What have you tried to fail at this week?’,” Blakely said.

Though she said it’s still a hard concept for him to grasp, she makes a point to celebrate his efforts, whether it be on the soccer field or at school.

“One of the parenting things I think is so important is not praising the child, but praising the effort,” Blakely said. “And if he does things he’s not good at, I talk to him about what he gets out of it.”