Four Keys To Overcoming Failure

What if I fail?  There are no “If’s”!  You will fail.  We all fail.  We all fall flat on our faces at some point.  Some of us have more scars from those falls than others.

I am convinced that whatever success I have achieved in this life can be traced back to the failures that preceded the successes.  Thomas Watson once said, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

If leaders, employees, spouses and children changed their attitude from fearing failure to embracing it, they would all increase their success rate.

What now?

What now?

How does doubling my failure rate increase the odds I will be successful?  I believe there are Four Keys To Overcoming Failure.

Four Keys To Overcoming Failure

1.  Expect to Fail

We will all fall short.  There has never been a person in any of my leadership sessions to ever claim perfection.  If we all know we are fallible, why do we seemed surprised when it happens?

Knowing that I am likely to experience failure from time to time allows me to maintain a learner’s mindset.  If I expect failure, I tend to not spend so much time worrying about it.  I tend to adapt an attitude that will keep me grounded and prepared to learn.  Another word for this is humility.

2.  Dare To Fail

We will all make mistakes.  We will all make bad decisions.  Perhaps the worst decision I can make is to view failure as the end of the road.  Failure is a critical step towards success!

I must dare to fail if I ever want to grow and learn.  If I spend my days avoiding anything risky or things I am not sure I can do,  I may avoid failure.  But, I will avoid success as well!

I must be willing to make mistakes in order to grow.  I must dare to fail or else I will find myself mired in mediocrity.

3.  Accept The Failure

I do not see failure as a statement of who I am as a person.  Many times, someone else points out my failures.  If I allow my pride to take over and avoid facing up to the criticism, I am also avoiding growth.

Criticism will not always come from the people I want it to come from.  Sometimes it comes from people I don’t like or respect.  Sometimes it comes from people I believe are missing key pieces of information.  Because of this, I dismiss them and their judgment.

However, somewhere inside their comments, if I look carefully enough, if I am humble enough, there is truth.  If I stop trying to adjust reality to my liking and begin to adjust myself to reality instead, I am ready to grow.

4.  Learn From Failure

I used to tell my people that if they were not making mistakes, then I believed they were not trying.  Because growth does not come from the failure.  Growth comes from what you do with that failure.

I also told my people:

  • The first time is a mistake.
  • Make the same mistake twice, I question your intelligence.
  • Make the same mistake a third time, I question my intelligence for hiring you.

After I fail, I try to evaluate why it happened.  Decide what I will do differently.  Then I move on and not dwell on the failure.

Every time I discovered I made a bad hire, I went back over my interview notes and always found the rock I failed to turnover.  One more question.  One more reference check.  Each time I found a new rock, it became a standard part of my interviewing in the future.

The Bottom Line:

So you failed!  Now what? 

Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Overcoming the failure that is inevitable in life is the best education possible.  I don’t become wise by avoiding failure.  I become wise by learning from it!

Therefore I must expect to fail, dare to fail, accept the failure and then learn from it.  That is the surest path towards wisdom and growth.

Leaders:

Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Tell your people to:  Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Expect your people to:  Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Parents:

Learn! Adapt!  Move on!

Tell your children to:  Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Expect your children to:  Learn!  Adapt!  Move on!

Question:

What recent mistake do you need to Learn, Adapt and Move On from?

2 Responses to “Four Keys To Overcoming Failure”

  1. Garrett Miller March 28, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    Dave,
    I love this subject and you did a great job of touching on the many important components of embracing failure. One needs both maturity and humility to see, accept, embrace, and learn from failure. This may explain why so many struggle with it.
    One of the areas that should concern professionals most is how failure is often met with punishment.If I make my boss look bad because of a risk I took it is met with contempt. When we encourage our teams to have mistake free cultures then we produce a risk free culture and a stagnant culture in which a company will soon atrophy and die on the vine.
    thanks for a great post.

    • Dave Anderson March 28, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      I always say, “Leadership through risk aversion inspires no one.” In fact, as you stated, it causes stagnation. Great point!

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