What It Means to Fail

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.” –Thomas Edison

I failed.

I have done it before and I will certainly do it again. Small failures and big failures, they are part of life and part of careers. I think it’s an important thing to acknowledge and discuss, as failing isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.

The truth is: Perspective is power.

If we think about it, fear of failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People never succeed when they are afraid to try. However, failure is painful, and we are naturally averse to pain, so it can be difficult to embrace it. If we do, failure forces us to look elsewhere for success. Overcoming it cultivates resiliency and grit, two things needed to persevere in this rocky world.

Make failure a powerful friend by employing these values:

  1.     Humility. Without humility, no innovation is possible. Problems must be identified before they can be improved. The first question I ask myself when dealing with failure is, “What did I do right?” This eliminates variables for improvement. Also, by focusing on the positives, asking the next question can become less of a burden: “What could I have done better?”
  2.     Positivity. Magnify solutions, rather than problems. Most of the time failure ushers in a new set of problems to tackle. No matter what kinds of problems are introduced – relational or financial – it is important to focus on solutions. This is another key component of growth. Let’s focus on what we can do to plug sprung leaks, rather than screaming in the boat.
  3.     Love. Love is a powerful thing. It’s important to have the proper perspective of the world around us. People are more important than all of the products and services we stress about. When we are focused on the people and embrace a love for the journey, we will maintain more grace for failure.
  4.     Honesty. I value being transparent with the ones that I love. Rather than pretending to have all the answers, it’s more empowering to reach out and ask for advice. This requires trust, and trust is the foundation upon which relationships are made. Sometimes the best new relationships are created from old failures.

As leaders we must encourage a culture that rewards the attempt, rather than punishing the failure. If we do, we can maximize our strengths – and nurture our weaknesses – to create high-performing teams.