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Becoming Friends With Failure


Never underestimate the importance of failure when it comes to life’s success. During my twenty-five year career, I have experienced both ups and downs. While I prefer the ups – it is those nasty downs that keep me grounded.

Grounded is a good thing.

Have you ever wished that everything you touched would magically turn to gold? If you have, you are no different from Rumpelstiltskin, and the rest of us. We all desire a level of success in areas that we take the biggest risks. Recently, I have worked with several leaders who experienced failure only to realize that the greatest lessons in life came on the heels of the hardest setbacks of life.

This is often the case for leaders. We all want to lead, but are we willing to pay the price. Setbacks, mistakes and mulligans often give a striving leader a lot of heartburn, and a premium opportunity to practice the art of reflection.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” – Peter F. Drucker

Failure forces us to look at our efforts from the inside out. (It becomes gut-check time)

Viewing life, work and our purposes after crises leads to clarity, inspiration and a healthy dose of desperation. This is the secret to consistently moving forward while learning how to become friends with failure.

No matter where you are at now in the business of life here are some stories of people who reluctantly understood this concept and made a positive impact on the world.

  • Author John Grisham was rejected by 12 publishing houses and sixteen agents. (Bet they are sorry.)
  • My favorite creative leader, Walt Disney, was fired from a newspaper because he apparently lacked imagination and originality.
  • Beethoven’s music teacher referred to the composer as “hopeless.”
  • Speaking of music, the Beatles were told by a recording company that guitar music is on the way out.
  • A public school teacher told Thomas Edison he was, “too stupid to learn anything.”
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul has over 65 different titles selling over 80 million copies and yet, was rejected for publication over 140 times.
  • Poor Winston Churchill Failed the sixth grade.
  • Michael Jordan locked himself in his room and cried after being cut from the high school basketball team.

These are just a few people who obviously never wanted to fail, but used failure to drive them forward in business and in life. In essence, they become friends with failure.

I wonder, are there any areas of your life in need of a little reflection? Times when, despite your best efforts you failed.

Try asking these three questions while giving yourself some intentional time and space to reflect.

  1. What would have been the perfect outcome?
  2. What really happened? Why?
  3. What are three things you would do differently today if given a mulligan or do-over?

Now take those lessons and apply them to any current challenge you are facing. What lessons can you glean from failure, that will create a winning future?

“At the end of each day, you should play back the tape of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you.” – Jim Rohn

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  1. Gary Korisko
    Gary Korisko07-27-2013

    Very true, Mark.

    I’ve always said that books make pretty good teachers, but the lessons learned from trying and failing are a more practical and accelerated form of learning.

    Some amazing lessons and insights come out of failures. They still suck 🙂 but as long as they’re going to happen anyway, you might as well learn something from them, right?

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia07-27-2013

      How right you are Gary. Unlike books the lessons you learn from failures are very hard to forget. Somehow in all this is a great lecture about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 🙂 Thanks for the visit my friend.

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