We are conditioned to have a backward mentality of failure. As adolescents, we felt the inevitable guilt of bringing a subpar grade home. Whether an A- or the dreaded F, guidelines were set for us early on to determine success and failure. Each event from school to the professional stage has perpetuated the ruse of guilt-ridden failure, which has led to a new problem – fear of it.
To avoid guilt and self-inflicted shame, we circumvent putting ourselves out there to be subject to other’s ridicule. Many go even further and never quite move up in life, or worse, they are placed in management positions, but create a stagnant environment and in turn fail to innovate. The cure for failure is not avoidance, but understanding.
Failure Begets Success
Obviously, if your start-up business goes under within a year, it’s not labeled as successful. Still, it is important to understand constancy in trials – though failure ensues – leads to success. Winston Churchill, who led Great Britain through some of its darkest days, once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” This is an important truth to heed. Failure is a picture in time, as is success. If you fail, you are not a failure. Failure is an event that does not define you unless it becomes you. It is an opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t that will help you to your particular goal. Not doing anything is the one thing that can make you digress.
As American industrialist Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” The only setback should be apathy. As long as you are pushing forward toward a goal, the pragmatic result is you will gain some ground. Once you find where you want to lead a team, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There are two types of mistakes: trivial and unlearned. The former is when you fail because of something that could have been avoided, including being unorganized, not thoroughly planning, or repeating mistakes. These are all things that will inevitably lead to moving backward and can hurt your overall productivity. Unlearned mistakes are those that are seemingly unavoidable because the wisdom is not yet inherent, as in sometimes you have to fail to learn how to do something the correct way. This is moving forward. Learning how not to do something can be viewed just as important to success as finding out how to accomplish the same feat.
Learning from Failures
You know where to go and you’re headed in that direction, but you’ve hit a setback, invested in the wrong idea, or led a business in the wrong direction. Fail. In order not to become an afterthought and to retain faith in yourself and from others, you must push through the failure today to find success tomorrow. The first step is to accept responsibility for the mistake. Then, analyze the error and decide which type it is, trivial or unlearned. If trivial, fix it and soldier on. If unlearned, use it as an opportunity for growth and to better understand your circumstances. This is paramount in getting further in life. If time has passed and you are still making the same mistakes, you are going to lose the faith of your team members. Remember, the day you stop learning is the day you stop leading. Continue to grow and educate others in order to reach your overall goal. After you’ve accepted responsibility and learned from the failure, move forward and don’t dwell on it.
Start Failing Today
Do not fear failure, fear apathy. Others around you are looking to you for leadership; some are ready to jump in the fire with you, because they believe in your idea, charisma, or overall vision for your company. According to the Roman poet Virgil, “they succeed, because they think they can.” Know who you are and what you want. Be ready for failure, it is inevitable. But know – success is waiting behind one of those failures.