I was having lunch with a friend of mine.  He asked, “Have you ever failed at anything?”  “Yes,” I said.  He seemed surprised, “I mean something really big, something that matters.”  “Absolutely,” I said and gave him a couple of examples.  My friend spent the rest of the meal trying to convince me that either the poor results were not my fault, or the situation was not really a failure because no one else could have done any better.

I told him those reasons didn’t matter.  To me, failure is simply not getting the desired result.

I recognize that most of the biggest things I’ve learned in life has come from failure.  I embrace failure.  I don’t chase it, but failure offers insights you can’t learn another way.

  • Failure is precise. Failure has an identifiable root cause from which clear lessons can be learned and steps are taken to avoid repeating it.
  • Failure teaches you to expect (and respect) things you can’t control. Experiencing failure is a master class in how to manage for the unknowable.
  • Failure is not absolute. Even if the result is not what was desired, there can still be outcomes to be used for one’s benefit.
  • Failure teaches the art of risk management. There is no better learning tool for your organizations than to deliberately place your team in situations of controlled risk.

Afterward I thought about the conversation with my friend and realized that his protest wasn’t really about me.  It was about him.  If he accepted my definition of failure, then he had to admit he had failed too.  He was deathly afraid of failure.

It made him afraid of taking risks.  Or worse, deceive himself as to whether a result was successful or a failure.

The only real failure to failure is failing to learn from it.  As the leader of your organization, you are likely skilled in this adage.  But how about the rest of your organization?  There is no more important skill you can teach them.  If you’d like to talk about this more, click here to set up a date and time.

In times of crisis, it is also vital to recall fundamental truths and the lessons of the past.  My next webinar, Leading During Crisis, discusses the responsibilities of leadership, ways to identify opportunities during the pandemic, and the actions you can take to respond.  The webinar is FREE and being held next Wednesday, June 24th at 10 am CST.  Click here to register.





“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again,
this time more intelligently.”

Henry Ford





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