Failure has a bad reputation—worse than it deserves. Of course, we like success as much as anyone and work hard to achieve it. But often, you will find success is neatly wrapped up in a package marked “Failure”. With the right attitude, you can find the hidden success in failure, and use it to move your business initiatives forward.
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Find the story
Failure almost always produces more interesting narratives. “We harnessed the horses and steered the wagons west until we reached California” isn’t as intriguing as “We ran out of food after we took the wrong trail in Utah and had to eat the horses.” So the next time your plans start to go to hell in six different directions, it might be a good time to reach for paper and pen and take notes. You could get a great story out of the fiasco.
Find the serendipity
While things are going wrong, something lovely and unanticipated can happen. Imagine accidentally kicking over a can of house paint and having a flawless and exquisite landscape painting appear in the puddle. That’s serendipity.
Without the failure, you wouldn’t get the treasure. So the next time you are lost, the restaurant is closed, or you can’t remember her address; be alert. Something good may be about to come out of the failure.
Find the lesson
Learning starts when you have a question you cannot answer. Learning ends when everything behaves exactly as you expect. Almost all the great lessons in life are taught to us by failures.
If you’re like me, you learn far more from your own failures than you do from the failures of others. It appears that if we don’t capture the lesson from a specific failure, then life will repeat the failure until we do get the lesson. And repeat and repeat. The Dalai Lama had it right when he advised, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”
Find the hidden success
Paradoxically, playing it safe, to block out the possibility of failing, is the only 100 percent, sure-fire way to fail. If we refuse to try, we can’t grow, learn, change, or innovate.
Carol Dweck wrote a very worthwhile book called Mindset which proposes that people who see failures as a natural part of the journey to success tend to achieve more. They are bruised, but they are learning. And they are naturally more fun to be around.
Keep this post in mind when your campaign or project doesn’t quite meet the goals you had in mind. There are always hidden successes in failure.
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