“To me success can be achieved only through repeat failure and introspection” – Soichiro Honda, Founder of Honda Motor Company
Unfortunately too many firms I worked for motivated performance with fear of failure. Their attitude was that it better be perfect the first time. But I have learned over the years that failure is part of the learning process.
In the Harvard Business Review Peter Sims agrees. In The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure, Sims observes that many MBA-trained executives are never given permission to fail and industrial management is mostly built on mitigating risks and preventing errors, not innovating or inventing. Yet Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research that successful entrepreneurs make decisions by making lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models.
The way you handle failure is the corner stone of success. Having no room for failure means you have no room for progress. In another HBR article, Whitney Johnson advises how to Put Failure in It’s Place. Johnson says, “Implicit in daring to disrupt the status quo is daring to fail. As we learn by doing and do by learning something will eventually (and inevitably) not work.” How do we not let failure take us down?
- Acknowledge sadness: Grieving is an important part of the process. If you suppress sadness, you risk losing your passion, which is the essential engine of innovation.
- Jettison shame: Failure doesn’t limit innovation – shame does. Pull shame out of the process to gain the lift you need to get back to daring and dreaming.
- Learn the right lesson: What valuable truth did you discover by failing? The lesson isn’t to never pursue a dream again, but to gain valuable insights that will help the next idea succeed.
The difference between winners and losers is winners have accepted failure, learned from it and move on. Losers never enter the game for fear of failure or the first failure stops them dead in their tracks. Need more proof? Here is a list of famous failures turned success by Business Insider:
- Walt Disney was told a mouse would never work.
- J.K. Rowling was on welfare.
- Oprah Winfrey was told she was “unfit for T.V.”
- Jerry Seinfeld was booed off-stage.
- Sidney Poitier was told to become a dishwasher.
- Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school three times.
- The Beatles were dropped by their record label.
- Steven King received 30 rejections for “Carrie.”
- Michael Jordan was cut form his high school basketball team.
- Steve Jobs was removed from the company he started.
Failure isn’t time to stop, it’s time to learn. Anything worth having is not easy. Join the winners that own their failures and learn from it. The reality of our world today is we all must be lifelong learners. Are you not allowing yourself to fail and limiting your future success?