Failures – Through the leader’s lens

All the conveniences we enjoy today through inventions and innovations are mostly the results of resilience in the face of insurmountable odds, repeated failures and setbacks. Every failure is another investment you make for ultimate success with increasing wisdom and diminishing risks. Lookout for consistent patterns in your failures; you cannot afford to repeat mistakes. Every failure/setback should see at least one problem factor eliminated, with the probability of success increased. Accept every failure as a fresh challenge and a temporary setback that every entrepreneur faces on the way to success. Let failures not deter or scare you; be persistent, learn from the mistake/s, eliminate the factor/s that caused the mistake/s, and try again in a new way. The likes of Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs and Ralph Lauren, all experienced failure before meeting with incredible successes. Thomas Edison failed nearly 10,000 times before perfecting the electric light bulb; and said, “I never failed 10,000 times, I found 10,000 ways not to invent the light bulb.” Let it be your guiding spirit too in overcoming failure and embracing success.

The life of that great US Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was strewn with more failures than successes all the way. Before being elected president in 1860, he tasted defeat at four consecutive elections; twice to congress, once to senate and once for vice presidency during the preceding 12 years without a single victory. He saw failure thus: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Another past US President, Bill Clinton, lost a re-election bid after having served as Governor, the previous term; but he came back to win in 1982, 1984, 1986 & 1990. He was later elected the 42nd president of US in 1992, was re-elected in 1996 and survived an impeachment trial too in 1998.

The best of companies that keep moving forward towards increased successes (as opposed to blissful stagnation), embrace failures as an integral part of success. “You will see some failures,” Coke’s Chairman & C.E.O. E., Neville Isdell said addressing its shareholders and simultaneously sending out a brave message to the business world and all concerned, “As we take more risks, this is something we must accept as part of the regeneration process It reflects Coke’s culture across the board, be it a profit center or a cost center.

An uncle of R. U. Darby headed west with gold fever and found a gold mine. Keeping it a secret he went back home and returned with Darby and the money to finance the project. Together, they made a good haul which made them two of the wealthiest in Colorado. However much they tried, they could not find any more gold and eventually sold the site and equipment to a junk man. Having no knowledge of gold mining himself, the junkman hired an engineer whose calculations found a far bigger haul that brought him millions of dollars just three feet away from where the uncle-nephew duo had given up the chase!
We can learn three things from this story:
(i) Seek expert advise when you face a failure or there is a high probability of failure.
(ii) The most tragic failure in life is to give up when you could be just one or few steps away from the pinnacle; don’t undo an investment of a lifetime in one instant with one rash decision.
(iii) A failure can make or break you; its outcome depends on your attitude.

A failure is not a matter for pessimism or dejection; but something to be viewed as an “experience” with new lessons learned. A failure in its true perspective is another step forward in bringing you evermore closer to that elusive breakthrough. If you manage staff, keep this in mind!

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