“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed, for it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” ~ French statesman Georges Clemenceau
Have you ever noticed how some of the most innovative and useful products we have today were a product of happy accidents, failure or mistakes? Levi’s, post-it notes, masking tape, surgical masks, Scotchgard, Thinsulate — just to name a few. These ‘can’t live without’ products are all innovations of the first idea not working out ,but rather than seeing the effort as a failure, something else became of it.
As a matter of fact, 3M estimates that 60 percent of its formal new-product programs go belly up. “When this happens, “ said Lewis Lehr, “the important thing is not to crucify the people on the project. They should know their jobs with the company are not in jeopardy when they fail.” In fact, 3M is so open to innovation; they expect that 30 percent of all 3 M products should be products that didn’t exist four years earlier.
We assume that success is the top of the mountain and failure is the gutter. That’s not the case, the real top of the mountain is when we are so engaged in what we’re doing that this distinction vanishes. As a coach, I know I’m doing my purpose (my life’s work) when I am so engaged in what I'm doing time vanishes.
Failure is not necessarily something I welcome (haven’t ‘moved on’ that much yet!). Yet I don’t get upset if I don’t get every client that interviews me. I’m not the right coach for everybody. The important thing is to learn from every interview, every interaction, and every perceived failure.
A good friend gave me a book recently entitled: Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins: The Paradox of Innovation by Richard Farson & Ralph Keyes and I’d like to share with you a few of the lines I underscored as I read the book:
Those who take bold chances don’t think failure is the opposite of success. They believe complacency is.
The risk of failure is far more captivating than success in the bag.
Managers have to accommodate employees who find success boring by finding way to keep their action (excitement) level up. A new problem in need of a solution is more arousing to them than one that’s already solved.
Nature has tried to tell us over the millennia that progress can be made only when failure is risked. This is why we find adversity so alluring. In the midst of adversity, we become our better selves.
We are stronger than we think. So are those we work with, while organizations and relationships may be fragile, individuals are strong.
Setbacks can be antecedents to success. Managers can do much to convert an employee’s sense of failure into one of experimentation, learning and growth.
If you haven’t failed, they say, you haven’t tried hard enough.
A study of forty successful entrepreneurs found that most had run one or more businesses into the ground, yet the majority said if their current venture failed, they would start another.
Failure tolerance is the essence of the entrepreneurial boldness that has prepared America so well for a rapidly changing economy.
“I think if you don’t fail a certain percent of the time, it means you’re playing it too safe.” ~ Michael Crichton, writer-director
“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career”, admitted Michael Jordan. “I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” (It should be noted that when Jordan was a sophomore in high school, he didn’t make the team because the coach said he was no good. He has spent his life proving the coach wrong.)
Success is time consuming. Scheduling becomes a problem. Those who get to the top and want to stay there have little room on their calendars for much else; hobbies, travel, family or friends.
As Bette Midler said, “The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.” (Sometimes when you share your success with another and you fail to receive an enthusiastic response, it may not be jealousy or envy, it may be a certain amount of sadness because they know you’ll now have less time for them)
Success is at least as hazardous as failure. It means redefining our sense of self around being a success rather than an unfinished portrait. We also no longer have failure to blame for feeling unhappy. If success can’t make us happy, we then must ask, what can?
Even the big boys, the CEO’s feel like frauds. They are always prepared for someone to come through the door and say. ‘Okay, we found out about you.” And as they laugh about it, they realize: There are no big boys, only little boys. (I think regardless of our role, there are times when we all feel like fakes, never prepared enough, knowledgeable enough, smart enough, 'big' enough, etc.)
Studies show there is little correlation between success in high school and later in life, actually the opposite.
There is no shortage of ideas or new approaches. The shortage is in openness to such ideas.
The world belongs to those who don’t let anxiety about screwing up keep them from moving forward. Those who are too afraid to make a mistake work for those who aren’t.
Coach's Comment: What will you do with this information?