Some of the greatest leaders have experienced some of the most epic failures.
Take Dave Ramsey, for example. In his twenties, he “had it all,” or so it seemed. What he really had was a truckload of debt that ended up costing him everything. At that time, no one in their right mind would have hired him as a financial advisor; but today, he advises thousands of people on financial matters on a daily basis.
Consider Mike Michalowicz, a highly successful entrepreneur in the tech industry, who, by the age of 35, had founded and sold two multi-million-dollar companies. In short order, he lost it all, later relaying the story of how his nine-year-old daughter offered her piggy bank to help support the family. That excruciatingly painful experience laid the foundation for his passionate mission of “eradicating entrepreneurial poverty.”
Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
There are many other examples: Steve Jobs was fired from his own company; Walt Disney was fired for lack of creativity and suffered bankruptcy in business; Thomas Edison not only failed, he documented his thousands of failures; and Elvis Presley was told he couldn’t sing.
And yet, today’s society is permeated with light bulbs and sound equipment, mobile phones and tablets, movies, books, theme parks, and merchandise from highly successful individuals who failed their way into business.
And, yes, somewhere in the world, Elvis still sings every day on the airwaves.
The point is this: success does not always come easy. As Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” It is also often cloaked in failure.
If you have failed, even on an epic scale, congratulations! You are a candidate for success.
“My great concern is not whether you have failed,
but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln
How can you turn failure into success?
Remember English class? The 5 W’s and the How. These are the questions you should ask yourself as you reflect on a failure.
- Who is responsible?
(Hint: Three letters – YOU!)
Until you own the failure, you can’t change the outcome. There may be factors and people involved, but ultimately, as they say, everything rises and falls on leadership. So…it fell. Own it so you can move on. You may not be able to change people or circumstances, but you can change you.
- Who can help you?
While everything rises and falls on leadership, and leaders must own responsibility for success or failure; sometimes the responsible thing to do is reach out for help. Before you start your next initiative, identify your team of supporters and mentors.
Ask yourself what lessons you can learn from the failure. Think like a scientist: document the failure and ask yourself what led to it and what you can learn from it. Do it now before you move on and repeat the same mistake.
Those who do not learn the lessons of failure tend to unwittingly repeat the lesson, often ending up in a cycle of failure.
Sometimes, failure is a point of timing. Did you try to launch too soon? Did you fail to allow enough time to complete the critical foundational work? Did you set goals with milestones to measure progress? Did you anticipate issues and allow time to address them?
In today’s fast-paced world of business and technology, this can be an issue. Yes, you must move fast to stay ahead of competition; but if you don’t take some time to plan and execute well, it could result in failure on the back end. This may come in the form of lawsuits, regulations, or quality issues.
Was the environment right? Were you and your team working in an environment conductive to success? In the Maxwell Method of Communication Impact report, each person’s ideal environment is addressed. Being in the right place, with the right people, and under the right circumstances helps feed success.
If you have ever led a team in a bad environment filled with lack of communication and mistrust, you know that is tantamount to failure if not addressed.
How can you do it better next time? If you have identified the first 4 W’s, you will have many answers here. Who do you need to add to your team? How can you lead the team better? What are the obstacles to overcome and avoid? Have you planned your time well to address each part of the process? And do you have a strong team environment to execute your improved plan?
Why are you doing what you do? What is your purpose and passion for doing it? A strong “why” will carry you through those points of failure and on to success.
Why did those identified go on to succeed?
They had passion and purpose to pull them forward, and they applied these six steps in their thinking processes regarding the failure.
The ultimate lesson is this. Failure in and of itself has inherent value. It means you tried something. And it means you are about to learn some very important life and leadership lessons. John C. Maxwell calls this Failing Forward. He also says that failing forward provides the “stepping stones for success.”
For more resources on how you can you can lead your team and organization on the path to greater success, click here to learn about the Maxwell Method of Communication Impact Report.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.