From success to failure is one step; from failure to success is a long road. -Yiddish Proverb
One of the most difficult things that I’ve had to learn over the years was how to embrace failure. Failure is the thing most of us spend the most amount of energy trying to avoid. It is hard to accept, and we don’t look forward failing. However, when you remove the emotional aspect from failure, failure is only feedback. As executives we can and should learn from our failures, by understanding what does not work, and by continuing to adjust our strategies until we find out what does work.
Most of us think that failing is bad. But is it really? As children, we were very familiar with “failure” when we were learning how to walk. We made countless attempts trying to find out what to do so we could walk without constantly falling down. Failure’s role in our lives and careers is to teach us. It is a method of learning; learning to change and adapt. With every failure we have, we learn one more way that does not work and we can focus in the correct ways.
Any new task we strive to accomplish there is always the risk of failure. In fact, we might fail many times before succeeding. It is only by risking failure will we ever be able to grow. If you are failing, at least you are trying something new. Woody Allen once said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
When you fail, ask yourself this question, “What could be positive in this situation?” This allows you to obtain feedback from the experience and to learn from it. Remember, we often achieve our greatest successes right after we have experienced our worst failures.
Failure is tough, but you are correct that it helps us to grow. And if the time between the actual failure and the realization of the failure is long, then it can be even more tough since you likely don’t remember the full details and are left with a rather fuzzy recollection of the situation. That makes figuring out the “lessons learned” even more difficult.
Just yesterday, I failed at building a new gate for my fence. But I quickly recovered and built it again–this time in a way that worked. I rewarded myself by stopping work a bit early! 🙂 Now that is a good lesson!
Nice story. Thanks Don.
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Good post and thanks for sharing that great Yiddish proverb! When people have asked me about “best practices” so that they can learn faster, I’ve replied that in general, I don’t teach nor share best practices. But I’m very hapy to share “worst practices”..namely my failures, foibles, and f&*# ups! It’s a lot better way to learn ;-). The other thing about best practices is that I’m really not that comfortable or presumptuous to say what they are!
I thought of you with that Yiddish proverb.
You bring a good point about best practices. It really is a short cut to learning to do something faster but is it really a better way of learning? For me, I learn better from mistakes and I think most executives like us do the same.
I don’t consider myself an expert or guru to say what best practices are. Everyone should figure it for themselves.
Thanks for the great comment!!!!
Your friend in NY.
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