It seems like backwards-thinking that in order to succeed in business and in our careers we have to go through the failures first. We’ve been conditioned and trained all of our lives to avoid failure. We’ve grown up in a school system that pressures students via a grading scale. We are told we must get good grades in order to get into a good school which will ultimately lead to a successful career. As a result, we grow up terrified of failure.
University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino said, “Failure is good. It’s fertilizer. Everything I’ve learned about coaching I’ve learned from making mistakes.”
That last sentence is so important. If we don’t learn from mistakes and failures we make, then we will simply find ourselves going in circles like trying to row a boat with one oar. We improve and move forward because of the lessons learned from failures.
In life, we have opportunities to be mentored and learn from situations. Are you taking advantage of these opportunities or are you being stubborn and allowing them to pass by? I’ve learned to not only have a daily goal to move myself forward in my career but, also, to take something (or somethings) I can learn from as many situations every day. How can we do this?
1) Don’t play the blame game
Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School said this in her article titled Strategies for Learning From Failure:
“Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organizations, and cultures. Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame.”
We can’t move forward and learn from our failures if we aren’t willing to stop blaming others. It’s essential that we accept responsibility for our actions.
2) Counsel with a mentor
Do you have a mentor? If so, utilize the knowledge of that person who, most likely, knows you well and speaks from a position of experience and wisdom. That person got to where they are because they’ve gone through the process of mistakes and failures. Counseling with them can minimize the number of mistakes we will make before eventually tipping the scale towards success.
3) Ask your boss or a superior
If you have a superior, ask them. They work with you on a daily basis and should know your strengths and weaknesses. Show that you are striving to improve and get better. In most cases, they will be impressed that you are willing to humble yourself and recognize that you have weaknesses and want to improve.
4) Take 15 minutes to recap at the end of the day
Very simple. Too many people take opportunities to spend time in thought for granted. We can even do this on our drive home. At the end of the day, think about the things you did right and wrong that day and how you can improve and get better.
5) Persevere. Don’t quit.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That seems crazy to go through 10,000 failures before finally achieving success. Edison believed in what he was doing, though, and that he was part of a cause greater than himself. As a result, he was willing to persevere until he finally achieved his goal.
Failures are a part of the journey toward whatever success is for you. We need to heed Rick Pitino’s advice and allow failure to be the fertilizer. Just think about it… if Thomas Edison hadn’t persevered and allowed failures to be the fertilizer, there’s a chance we would be living without the light bulb today. We need more Thomas Edison’s who are willing to take the necessary steps to learn from failures and persevere until success is achieved.