No one likes to talk about the dreaded “F” word. No…not that one. The meaning of the word Failure has joined the ranks of words and phrases that traditionally are regarded as lewd or vulgar – to the point that it’s almost taboo to discuss someone’s failures.
But in some arenas, the tide may be shifting a bit. Recognizing that innovation comes only from risk taking and that employees will shy away from experimentation if they fear retribution, some companies have begun rewarding employees courageous enough to seek new, creative ways to solve problems. That concept signals a fundamental shift in perspective about what it means to fail. Under this emerging theory, a failure merely represents a bump in the road toward success and should not be regarded as defeat.
Embracing failure may seem like a novel concept, but the idea of trial and error is the foundation of some vocations. Chemists, for example, often must conduct experiment after experiment before they uncover the correct formula, and the same is true for many other science-related professions. Likewise, the most celebrated chefs in the world routinely tweak their recipes and test new flavors in their dishes; along the way, lots of food gets burned and/or trashed. In addition, physicians may conduct numerous tests or try various treatments before settling on a diagnosis. But your average chemist does not view the first 20 failed attempts leading up to the 21st successful one in a negative light. Famous chefs don’t fret over the failed recipes that precede their masterpieces. And doctors we don’t consider doctors failures if it takes time and multiple attempts to get the answer right. Instead, in these professions, failure is accepted as a normal part of the process toward achievement.
While some leaders in other industries are catching on the idea that failure can breed innovation, most businesses have a lot to learn when it comes to recognizing the upside of failure. Most of us would be well served to consider some of these ideas:
Learning from Failure
Rather than wallowing in regret following a misstep, regardless of the degree of the setback, true leaders consider failure as an opportunity to learn. Carefully analyzing exactly why the last process didn’t work, why the last strategy was not well received, or why the last device didn’t function properly is imperative when moving beyond failure.
Resilience through Passion
The temptation to focus on disappointment following a failure, particularly one experienced after the execution of a well-crafted strategy, may be overwhelming. However, the most impressive success stories involve individuals who persevere in the face of adversity. How does one overcome the emotional sting after a crushing defeat? First, it helps if you have a strong personal investment in solving the problem at hand. A sense of passion underlying the mission can make a huge difference in mustering the strength to move beyond failure.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice
All of this talk about embracing failure may sound very touchy-feely or new-agey to more traditional types. However, no one has ever suggested that all failures deserve praise. In fact, many failures should not be tolerated all. While failures that result from courageous risk taking, conceived and executed in smart way, may merit praise and can teach us valuable lessons, failures resulting from poor judgment or a lack of thoughtful preparation have no upside.
Not convinced? Then consider the following examples. These individuals became famous as a result of their incredible achievement. However, as is often the case, their success was not immediate, and they fell on their face before they achieved their dreams.
- Michael Jordan was initially cut from his high school basketball team. Instead of giving up, he honed his skills and developed an undying passion for the game. He later led the UNC Tar Heels to an NCAA championship as an underclassman and became the standard by which all NBA players after him are judged.
- Henry Ford had two failed business before he became a pioneer in the automotive industry. Perhaps referring to his earlier not-so-successful ventures, Ford once famously said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
- Steven Spielberg dreamed of becoming a filmmaker early in life, but he hit a major roadblock when the USC film school rejected him not once, not twice, but three times. Undaunted, Spielberg blazed his own trail, becoming one of the most successful and respected movie directors in history.
Everyone can’t succeed at everything, but taking some cues from these famous icons lends credence to the idea that learning from your mistakes and following your passions can sometimes turn failure into opportunity.
Working with self storage users all over the United States, Tim Eyre helps customers store their belongings in places like Philadelphia self storage and North Fort Myers self storage. In his spare time, Tim likes to get outside for a game of basketball or a round of golf.
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