Some of the most important lessons we learn in life are from our failures. They serve as proof that we are trying new things, pushing new boundaries, and welcoming the unknown. John Maxwell, the famous inspirational author, says the quality that distinguishes someone successful from one who is unsuccessful is his “capacity to manage disappointment and loss.” He goes on to say that while we all want to succeed, we should instead train for losses.
From our earliest days as children we learn to accept failure. We fall while trying to learn how to walk, or ride a bike. We don’t make the team we try out for, or we do make the team but as second string. We get accepted by 4 of the 5 colleges we apply to, but that one declination stings. Failure is everywhere.
Imagine if the world’s greatest inventors refused to fail. Everything from the light bulb, to air travel, from the television, to the computer would be at risk. When Thomas Edison was asked about how many times he tried for the light bulb and failed he said, “I didn’t have 1,000 failures. It simply took 1,000 steps to make the light bulb.” Talk about an optimists attitude.
Our challenge is to rid our mind of the negative stigma associated with failure. Human beings by nature are curious creatures. Asking “why” leads to testing new thoughts, ideas, ways of doing things. In the absence of curiosity we would have never discovered new lands, new civilizations, new technologies, or new medicines to treat and cure disease. So why is it that people run from failure?
I would submit that some people believe failure shows weakness. If you knew…you wouldn’t have failed. Talk about an absurd viewpoint. The famous management expert, Peter Drucker, said, “I would never promote a person into a high-level job who was not making mistakes…Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.” Many organizations reward status-quo. Companies that find themselves on a winning streak become complacent. Their leadership sits back to relax and enjoy victory. The problem is, that while you’re sitting back complimenting yourself for being so brilliant, your competition is working feverishly to disrupt your success and pass you by. It happens every day.
So shift your thinking from having to be an expert at everything to one of a beginner…a learner. When you’re in a learning mode your mind is open to everything that’s possible. When you’ve decided you are an expert your subconscious shuts down your critical thinking skills creating tunnel vision. So open your eyes, let your mind wander, and begin to think of new ways to do things. As John Maxwell said, “Mistakes are acceptable as long as the damage isn’t too great. It doesn’t matter how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow!”
Embrace your failures…with each one you’re learning, growing, and becoming better at whatever you’re doing.