PFA 026: #5 in the most common rules to be awesome is to Embrace failure


The Prepare for Awesome Podcast

Where I want to educate, inspire, motivate and empower you to strive higher, push further, give more, do more, be more as you become all you possibly can be.

PFA 026 Show Notes

On today’s show, we will be talking about the big F word.  No, not the F-word you are thinking of.  We are going to talk about failure, why it can be a good thing as well as how and why you should embrace failure it.

#Failure #PrepareForAwesome #Motivation # Inspiration #WinstonChurchill #AbrahamLincoln #NelsonMandela

And I want to start with a quote ascribed to Winston Churchill.  As many of you know, Winston Churchill for all his faults, prejudices and failings, was a man who did not give up and seems always to have found a way of making things work out.  He was tenacious and had endurance.  Along with Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, he is the man I have learned the most from about leadership and success than almost any other.

And so to quote Winston Churchill,  ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts.’

Now whether it is Churchill who actually said it does not matter, the facts of the quote are the important part to think about.

The problem though is the word failure has for many years received a bad report.  I think it was Tiger Woods who epitomised the bad rap it has received when he said, ‘Second is first loser.’  In other words, if you don’t win, you are a loser.  A failure.

I, however, think we need to look at failure differently and that is with the aforementioned quote in mind.  I think the capacity to fail is the most important qualities a human possesses as failure is what makes achievement possible.  With one very big condition thrown into the mix!  

Failure must be accompanied by a learning experience otherwise it is just failure.  It must be accompanied by that ability to get up and keep moving with the attitude of, ‘OK, so that did not work out.  What can I learn and how can I get better.’

And let’s be honest.  No matter how prefect you think you are, you are not nor will you ever be perfect.  You and I will always be getting things wrong, making mistakes, screwing up, making bad decisions, saying inappropriate things.  That’s just who we as humans are.

Imperfect and faulty.

Now if you look at the dictionary definitions of the word failure, most make it sound a very personal thing, making the person the failure instead of the circumstance.  None of the definitions account for getting up and learning from failure as a part of life.

There are also many people who contend that we should not talk about failure or even embrace it.

Please understand, I am not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that we should strive to fail or that failure in business or in life are the results we should be planning to achieve.  On the contrary.  We must plan for and strive to achieve the successful outcome we want.  

Let’s face it, it would be extremely stupid to present a business plan to investors which details how you will take their money and be out of business in a years time.  No, you present a business plan which shows how you will take their money and make it work to give them the return they and you want.  

However, if it does not go as you planned for it to go, which due to the ever-changing nature of business and the world in which we live it inevitability will not, your plan may fail to achieve what you had set out to achieve.  You may after 6 months find the market you so relied on has suddenly and unexpectedly changed.  What then?

I am also not suggesting that you should fail so that you can learn.  Again that is stupid.  

What I am saying is that when you do fail, you need to get up asking yourself, ‘What can I learn from this experience?’

The same is true if you manage a team for example.  Your job is to set them up for success by making it safe for them to fail. 

Does that mean we celebrate failure?  No.  

We celebrate success, but we don’t punish failure which is incurred in the production of success.  That means we celebrate the wins, the successes, but where an individual or a group has given it everything to make a plan work, but it has not for whatever reason, we don’t punish them for that failure.  We rather ask, ‘What have you learned’ or we ask, ‘What is the plan B?’

So here are 3 reason why I think you should embrace failure:

#1 – If you never fail, it is likely you are never winning either.[bctt tweet=”#1 – If you never fail, it is likely you are never winning either.” username=”AudaciousCo”]

Business and life involve risk and if you are not taking enough risk in your business, you are likely not winning either.  And risk involves the potential to fail and that strikes fear into the hearts of many people.  And your critics will jump all over that failure.  They will stigmatise you and will beat you with that failure or at least that is the way many people perceive it, even when it may not happen.

The fact is, that if you are not stretching and risking failure, you are likely not setting yourself apart from your competitors in any meaningful way and even if you are achieving small wins, you will ultimately be farming backward.

So forget about your critics, stretch yourself and embrace the potential for failure.  Push the boundaries and see where you can take the thing.

Just think of the early pioneers of flight.  Today we take intercontinental flight as almost a human right, but for those guys in those early years, they not only risked their reputations, they risked their lives.  They pushed the boundaries and today we can hardly imagine a world without airports and airplanes.

And by the way.  All of them were criticised by all manner of people, even their own families, but they did it anyway.

It is also important to recognise that teams which fear failure, you know the classic ‘Failure is not an option’  syndrome, also fear success and generally produce mediocre results over time.

#2 – Failure can teach you more than you currently know[bctt tweet=”#2 – Failure can teach you more than you currently know” username=”AudaciousCo”]

You and I both know that we don’t know everything there is to know in our particular field and that we should continually be looking for new perspectives which challenge or assumptions and perspectives.

So understanding that failure can teach you things that nothing else, including success, can teach you is critical to success.  

And of course I understand that failure can bring misery and hardship, which from personal experience is not a bunch of fun, in that place are the lessons we can learn to ensure that the misery and hardship are not repeated.  It is why more failures in life should write books, so we can learn from their mistakes.  

In this place, we should hopefully also learn why the small things, the little details, which we so easily ignore, are as critical to success as are the big issues we focus on.

But it is also in this place, we can learn about ourselves and the bigger the fall, the more potential there is to learn and change.  The fact is that people who haven’t yet failed or don’t stretch far enough to fail, have also limited the opportunities to look deeply within themselves and understand their motivations and perspectives.

They have not discovered their inner strength and often have no idea of their own bounce-back ability.

#3 – Failure teaches humility [bctt tweet=”#3 – Failure teaches humility” username=”AudaciousCo”]

Just as success can inflate your idea of your self-worth, failure can very quickly strip away any perception of self-worth.  It can and does bring you down to earth with a great big bump and life suddenly becomes unfair.  It can be a humiliating experience.

However, if you embrace failure, it will still bring you down to earth with a bump and the bigger the failure, the bigger the bump, but instead of it being humiliating and seemingly unfair, it can be humbling and empowering.

By allowing yourself to embrace failure, you understand that it is stuff that fails, not people.  People mess up, screw up, make mistakes.  It shows you are like everyone else on this spinning planet.  Human and imperfect.  That brings humility and although humility can breed success, it certainly breeds empowerment.  And empowerment will breed success.

So those are the 3 main reasons I think are important for embracing failure.  

But how can you do this?

Well, I would suggest the following 2 things you could do.

Firstly, give yourself and you team the freedom to fail as long as you understand that fearless leaping into the darkness is not the same as failing purposefully.  And failing purposefully is not failing on purpose.

Freedom to fail means you have given your all to succeed, but it has not worked out as you intended and you learn the lessons from that failure.  There is amazing freedom from guilt and freedom from fear in that place.  You will also find your results will eventually be at a far higher level than if fear of failure and retribution drove you to mediocrity.

Secondly, consider failure as new beginnings instead of endings.  As I have said earlier, failure is inevitable and can be uncomfortable, but it brings with it the opportunity for a new beginning.  You have the experience of what did not work to start over and find what does work.  

It opens new doors and can be the catalyst for new ideas and inventions.

So embrace failure and get on down the road.  And by the way, if you embrace failure, you will find you fail less.
So that it for this episode.  Thanks for listening.  I look forward to chatting with you again in the next episode.
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