Failing Your Way to Success
Is it necessary to fail in order to succeed? We've all heard the statistics--one out of every "X" restaurants/new businesses/retailers fail. The numbers are staggering. What happens when your startup tanks? Do you quit? Run away? Hide? No! You're an entrepreneur, so you get back in the saddle and you try again with the additional wisdom and insight you gained from the previous experience. Easier said than done, I know--but that's what makes people like Thomas Edison entrepreneurs. Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." What a great attitude!
I'll admit I'm a positive person who always sees the glass half full; I've been that way my whole life. I've come to realize through my own experiences as well as my clients' and colleagues' that you can't learn anything important if you aren't willing to make some mistakes along the way. Teddy Roosevelt said, "The person who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything!"
The road to great success is paved with fantastic failures. The most successful people I know will admit they've all hit bumps in the road, suffered major setbacks along the way and learned from each of those experiences--if they were smart. Michael Jordan admits, "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
So now do you believe me? You can't separate the successes from the failures--it's all part of the same journey. Optimism can be learned; choose happiness and see how it feels the next time you get down. It may be hard at first but I guarantee you'll enjoy the journey a lot more trying it this way. By carrying around a lot of bitterness and anger, you'll never lead a full life. Forgive, forget and move on. This quote from E.B. White should give you the courage to at least try it: "I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult."
I've quoted some pretty impressive people here, all of whom accomplished great things. They did it one step at a time, learning with each interaction, every encounter and conversation. They weren't born with the answers; they fumbled their way through it just like the rest of us. When they reached a good place, people started quoting them--like Charles F. Kettering who said, "Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement," or H. Ross Perot who said, "When building a team, I always search first for people who love to win. If I can't find any of those, I look for people who hate to lose." That's the entrepreneurial spirit!
I'm sure there are people out there who'll claim they've never experienced failure. It reminds me of the 80s when Wall Street was the place to be and the answer of choice when asked in interviews what your weaknesses is was to say "kryptonite." I think if Supermen and women were being interviewed today about when they stumbled, the best response would be to admit you've missed the last shot at the buzzer and tell them why next time you'll make it instead. Show what you learned from the experience, how you've reflected on the lessons and what steps you've taken to course correct going forward. I think the best people put themselves out there knowing they might not always win but they've trained hard and done their homework, prepared and planned for the moment to shine.
So don't be scared to fail your way to success. Turns out, that's the way it's done. My husband cooks and he always jokes about the four stages of roasting pine nuts: not done, not done, not done, burnt. How do you get them perfectly roasted? Practice! Nobody's born with an Olympic Gold Medal or Academy Award. When you find intrinsic motivation from a sense of joy, purpose and mastery, you're on the right track. Just keep failing until you succeed!