Look at all the things you’ve had a go at over the years – at work, on the sporting field, in the boardroom, for your family, with your finances… I reckon there’d be a number of failures – some small, some a little bigger and possibly some HUGE, very public failures. I guess you would have felt defeated and most likely lost confidence, maybe some respect and possibly some $$. But guess what? The sun rose the next day and the day after that. The world kept on spinning. You’re still here. I’m still here. Life goes on.
The ‘success mantra’ of modern western society edifies the winners and the high achievers, overtly identifying that they are DIFFERENT from us ‘normal’ folk. And, yes, they are potentially different – they have failed AND kept going. It’s important, though, to differentiate between “intelligent” failures (see acknowledgements below) and those that stem from a really bad idea (think Jackass stunts)! Intelligent failures come about from solid planning so that win or lose you will learn something from them. Similarly, they tend to be modest in nature so a catastrophe won’t be a likely result. If the original idea was not underpinned by solid planning or it stemmed from a momentary flight of fancy, then failure was most probably the likely outcome so we shouldn’t be surprised.
Failure is also more likely as we take more risks. Breakthrough or innovation does not originate from safety – it’s the result of planned risk. This is equally true for individuals as it is for corporations. Case in point is the Newton. Released in 1993, it was touted as the future of computing – also known as the MessagePad, it was a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) using a pen based system. In hindsight, its high price, large size and poor handwriting recognition doomed it to failure. However, this did not stop Apple taking risks and innovating – hence, we now have the iPad, iPhone and Mac range of products.
Translate this example to your situation. You’ve had a crack at something; you felt confident about the planning and it just didn’t come to pass. Step back, remove the emotion and use logic to assess the process from arm’s length. What could have been done better? What surprises presented? What were the resource constraints (money, skills, knowledge, contacts etc)? What do you need to do differently NEXT TIME?
And that’s the key – NEXT TIME. Ask yourself – how can you incorporate your learnings from this failure into your next time? Step on from failure, plan your next time and you are on the path to success.
To quote Michael Jordan, often lauded as the best basketball player (possibly athlete) of all time “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the winning shot, & I missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Let Hope Rise.