Lets have a look at one thing we can’t avoid in life. I have failed in the past and I will fail again in the future. We all failed and will fail in the future. We didn’t want to fail, we didn’t expect to fail, but we fail!
What is failure?
Usually, failure is defined as not meeting ours or someone else’s expectations. At work it can be missing a deadline, it can be delivering a product with bad quality, it can be the way you react to what someone said and the relationship took a hit.
I’ts not me!
How do we feel when we fail? We tend to have an automatic response which is looking for the external factor we couldn’t control that was the reason why we failed. No one wants to feel that we’re to blame for this failure. We try hard to find the “real” reason outside.
This is a common and natural reaction, but is it productive? I recently got a parking ticket. Getting a ticket AFTER you paid for parking but arrived 10 minutes late can be the one thing that ruins your day. Doesn’t matter how much fun you had before you returned to your car. You might just had the most romantic date, maybe you got back from a great training or watched your favorite band. This parking ticket deletes all positive emotions. “That $#@%!^&@&^% ,10 minutes!! He was stalking my car for sure!” Your day is ruined. You now get mad about everything! That day, I shouted at my kids, I drove fast and recklessly. I blamed everyone but myself. Clearly not a productive outcome.
What if failure is not a bad thing?
You might ask “how come that my boss is yelling at me that we missed a deadline, is not a bad thing?” Let me suggest another perspective. It is a perspective I picked up while reading about Stoicism which is frequently preached by Tim Ferris and other self-made leaders. It blew my mind when I read it first. Lets step out of our emotions for a minute and review what is going on.
We had a target, we had a plan (I hope) and we failed to execute to our expectations.What does that tell you about the plan you made and the resources you planned for it? A failure is an opportunity to get better. Much better!! Why? We have so many things that we can learn and improve in life. What is the one thing that will create a future impact?
The gift of failure
You guessed right – the thing we just failed with! Failure helps us understand what we need to FOCUS on and improve! It’s an opportunity. Failure helps us choose what is our next steps. It Focuses us on whats not working, and what we should do about it.
We can cry over it, we can blame others or the circumstances, or we can take responsibility to learn from it and get better!
Accept that when we take decisions we rarely have all the data to take the right path for success. I didn’t know how long it will take me to get to my car. We take decisions based on what we know at that time and based on our previous experience. Failures are a way to course-correct the path toward the next success. Maybe next time I’ll add 30 minutes more just to be safe, or now I know that this training usually takes more than it should, so I can park in another place.
What success really looks like
When we plan, this is how we think the path to success will look. We set a goal, we set a plan, and we believe that just executing the plan will get us there.
The realistic path to success is that we plan, execute, fail and course correct.
We can see that if we look at the concept of constant optimization, failures serve as a tool to where we should optimize and improve to get a better result. The Lean & Scrum use it as their planning and learning mechanisms.
Turn failure into a future success
Next time you fail, use the following process to turn the failure into a future success.
- Claim responsibility. Tell yourself this is a growth opportunity rather than a setback.
- What actions are needed immediately to minimize the impact?
- Review the planning stage – when you took decisions. What was missing there that could help you make a better decision? How can you make sure you will have this data next time you are going to decide?
- What do you know or understand today on how things work that you didn’t before?
- What steps can you take going forward to prevent this issue from happening again?
- What resources do you need? Whose help do you need?
Investing the time to learn from failures will bring you faster toward success. Failures are milestones that help you FOCUS on what’s not working and how you need to optimize what you’re doing.
Share your experience
I know you failed before. Maybe in such a big way. Share what did you learn from that failure and what actions you took to turn it into a success. I’d love to read and learn from your experience!