Let me start by sharing a truth: Being a failer does not make you a failure.
I understand that this viewpoint can be difficult to embrace when you are in the throes of defeat. When you have imploded upon yourself like a dying star. And I say this as one who has had a lot of experience in the field. Failure? You could call me a thought leader on the subject.
It is horrifying. Especially when you fail publicly. Here is why:
Our society cherishes success. Success defines the person, the organization, the culture. Success is a clear goal for every initiative that has an outcome. It is a gauge by which one measures impact, influence, and consequence. Success is defined as much by the tangible achievement of a predefined goal as it is by its polar opposite, failure. The commonly held view is that failure is to be avoided because success is to be achieved, and both cannot coexist.
Here are some folks who would beg to differ.
Arianna Huffington wasn’t always the darling of the online publishing world. Instead, she was rejected by 36 different book publishers before finally getting her second book accepted for publication. She could have archived her manuscript, moved on and used her continuous failure as a reason to stop pursuing her goals.
Warren Buffet was famously rejected by Harvard Business School when he was just 19 years old. He could have taken the rejection as a sign that he wasn’t cut out for the elite business class, but his father’s unconditional belief that he could succeed fueled his desire to keep going.
Sir James Dyson
You may know Sir James Dyson as the straight-talking vacuum cleaner entrepreneur from commercials. Far from an overnight success, Dyson worked on a staggering 5,126 prototypes that all flopped and failed before finding the right one for his Dyson vacuum cleaner. Dyson had to rely on his wife’s income to stay afloat after his invention failed to gain traction in the British marketplace.
I would venture to say that behind anyone who has ever accomplished anything is a history of failure that would put lesser men into a fetal position. But people who accomplish great things don’t see it that way. In fact, to them, failure is part of the process. They welcome it for the following 3 gifts it brings:
1 – Wisdom – There is nothing quite like learning from mistakes. While failure can be painful, mistakes are nearly always informative. Success is rarely achieved after the first try. It takes practice to correct the issues we faced before. Although constructive criticism is very difficult to hear, it is of great value in helping us move forward. Learning from our mistakes can make our failures worthwhile because we find some value even in incredibly difficult situations.
2 – Resilience – This is the ability to adapt to stress and adversity. Failing, messing up, and making mistakes can be very trying and hurtful, and even rock the very core of who we are. In those moments, we have the option of succumbing to defeat or overcoming and pressing forward. When we choose to overcome adversity, we develop more resilience, becoming stronger and more capable than we were before. Fostering resilience through failure allows us to handle our future mistakes and difficulties.
And my favorite:
3 – Community – In the early 2000’s I was up for a promotion. I was “working for the man” and had dedicated the entire year to gunning for it. I was insecure. So, the stakes were high. The day they communicated annual promotions to the firm was not a good one for me. Not getting the promotion was a crushing blow. And an embarrassing one. But then something happened. I was walking down the hall and a senior manager named Jim called me into his office.
“Mari, I know that you did not get the promotion you wanted and I’m sure you’re disappointed. Let me tell you about a time when the same thing happened to me and maybe it can be a source of encouragement.” He went on to describe his experience, what he learned from it, and how, after 10 years, he sees that it had been a blessing in disguise. He told me I should be proud of having put myself out there. He encouraged me to stay the course, but to understand that it would take a while for me to see the big picture. When I thanked him, he encouraged me to share my story in the future if I felt it would help someone. And so recently when someone I care about didn’t pass the CPA exam I did just that, because I remembered my conversation with Jim 20 years ago and what it meant to me. This is where failure meets perspective meets compassion meets story meets blessing. This should be the goal of any failure.
If you are trying to do something extraordinary, failure along the way is inevitable.
What is the best way to survive?
1 – Re-read the bold sentence above and realize that you are in good company
2 – Get back up – Be Resilient
3 – Own your part in the situation and learn from it – Be Honest
4 – Take that knowledge into the future – Be Wise
5 – Bonus round: Humbly share your experience if you think it will encourage someone else. – Be Generous
That’s how it can be fully redeemed. And that is when God smiles.
One thing that’s interesting and so important to remember is that a tough, challenging problem is worth spending a lot of time on and that you can be learning a lot while you’re trying to get there. And even more when you suffer a failure.
The best stories involve setbacks and treachery. They also involve a protagonist that rises again. Accept failure as it comes because as an entrepreneur, you will likely encounter more of it than most. But if you learn from it and view it in a healthy way these failures can be your superpower. The secret sauce that will propel you to the next chapter of your epic story.
Are you still blinking? Great! Now get back to it.
Our mission is to help business owners get a good night’s sleep.
Let us take the accounting and CFO piece from you. The piece that is so very necessary, but perhaps not your strong suit. It’s our pleasure to take these things off your plate so that you can serve your clients, employees, community and family by doing the things that you do best.
The only thing we care about more than your business is your peace of mind.
Mari Sandifer | Director of Marketing & Business Development
Mari joined Rektio as Director of Marketing and Business Development in 2020 after spending over 25 years in corporate finance and 3 years as a business owner. She holds a BS degree in Marketing and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Her CPA license is inactive (and morbidly obese).
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