If you have been a leader for any length of time, you are familiar with failure. Here are 6 things I have learned about failure:
1. Failure brings with it the possibilities of something greater. When I analyze and learn from my failure, I discover seeds for turning the failure into success. No one would consider Thomas Edison to be a failure, yet he reportedly failed 1000 times in creating the light bulb. He said, “I have not failed 1000 times; I have successfully discovered 1000 ways not to make a light bulb.”
2. Failure is OK. It is not the disgrace I think it is. Every leader fails; it is part of being human and part of leadership. I need to own up to it; take responsibility for it. It is worse to blame others for my failure. When I am authentic and vulnerable with my own failures, others are able to relate to me on a different level rather than hold me on a pedestal and at a distance.
3. Failure is many times only a temporary setback. Failure is never final, unless I give up and quit. If you want to learn about someone who never quit and persevered through failure, look no further than Abraham Lincoln. Here is a quick glance at his failures:
- 1832, Lost job
- 1832, Defeated for legislature
- 1833, Failed in business
- 1834, Elected to legislature
- 1835, Sweetheart (Ann Rutledge) died
- 1836, Had nervous breakdown
- 1838, Defeated for Speaker
- 1843, Defeated for nomination for Congress
- 1846, Elected to Congress
- 1848, Lost renomination
- 1849, Rejected for Land Officer
- 1854, Defeated for Senate
- 1856, Defeated for nomination for Vice-President
- 1858, Defeated again for Senate
- 1860, Elected President
4. Failure is actually greater when I don’t take risks. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without running the risk of failure. The ultimate failure is to have stayed in the safe zone and never have risked failure at all.
5. Failure can be a blessing or a curse. It depends upon my reaction or response to it. What I do with failure in my life is up to me.
6. Failure can be redeemed. I have told my kids, “What you think is your greatest failure, mistake or sin, God can redeem and use as your greatest strength for helping others.” Failure is our greatest presentation card to greater impact in the lives of others.
What have you learned from failure?