Many successful people cite failure (and lots of it) as the key to their success. Thomas J Watson, the founder of IBM, is quoted as saying
“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
It’s difficult to do the mental maths of failure + failure = success; we all know the old adage ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, but if approached the right way, failure can be a powerful tool.
There is only one failure which deserves to fill you with regret; the failure to act. You’re applying for a job that you really want but you’re afraid that you won’t get, or that your application won’t be good enough so in the end, you don’t apply. You’re scared that if you roll down that half-pipe you’re going to fall flat on your backside. You’re scared that if you try that BJJ class you’ll look like a baby giraffe on roller blades.
You’ve failed at the first hurdle. Inertia hidden as caution stops you from taking those steps towards success. No, you may not get the job, or the girl/guy or raise for your pay…
…but how will you know if you don’t try?
Reliable Feedback – don’t fail the same way twice
‘Once bitten, twice shy’. Failure is often inevitable. I don’t know anyone who turned up to their first martial arts class and was better than the regulars who’d been training there. They too failed to execute the techniques at some point, but as they tried again, they were told what they were doing wrong and changed their approach. The key to finding success in failure is to collect the correct feedback.
By keeping a journal you can collect information about what you did, how you felt, what was said and done so that you can go back to those moments when similar situations occur. When I write something down, it becomes written in my memory for a long while. When I do forget, I know where I can remind myself.
Failure tells you who you really are (and what you really want)
This time last year I was a quarter of the way through a daily project I’d set up; to make a drawing every day for a full year. The goal was to become a professional illustrator, fulfilling my lifelong dream of making money from my art.
By March I’d already burnt myself out.
I was spending less time on each drawing, each day. Instead of excitement I felt dread and frustration. The results were less than stellar. Even though I did a drawing every day without fail, drawing had become a chore. By the time 31st December came around, I hadn’t created that wonderful portfolio and I wasn’t a professional illustrator.
I had learnt something very important. I didn’t want to be a professional illustrator. I didn’t want to draw every day. I wanted to draw some of the time, only when I wanted to.
I’m proud that I stuck to my goal and rose to the challenge. Realising that I no longer wanted that goal made me feel free to concentrate on the other things I wanted in life.
Failure tells other people who you really are
Call me ‘old fashioned’ but I don’t like it when people swear. Or talk badly of others or of work. When something didn’t go your way, of course you feel like venting and letting those bad feelings out. But it is important that you do this privately.
Showing that you can view negative situations with a positive light will show people your true resilience. You demonstrate focus on long term outcomes rather than the present roadblocks. You show strength of character by not crumbling when knocked and are therefore seen as better able to take on greater challenges in the future.