Most of us don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. Many of us take failure as a personal indictment on who we are as people. But the truth is, there are several benefits to failure. And if viewed in the proper perspective, failure can be viewed as just a stepping stone on the pathway to success.
To put failure in context, you might be interested to know that there are several very famous and successful people who’ve failed more times than they care to admit.
Before Ford Motor Company became what it is today, Henry Ford went broke five times before he achieved greatness.
Soichiro Honda was jobless for many years and he was rejected by Toyota Motor Corporation when he applied as an engineer. Mr. Honda did not give up and started making scooters on his own. Through the encouragement of his network, he went on to start Honda, which is now a billion dollar business.
Akio Morita is probably not someone you have ever heard of. He started Sony. Mr. Morita was a complete failure at first; creating a rice cooker, which sold less than 100 units. But Mr. Morita pressed on and today Sony is a multi-billion dollar company.
Today, Walt Disney is a household name and the company/brand and merchandising produces billions a year. But before the Disney empire was a reality, Walt was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and he had no good ideas.” Walt also went on to start several businesses, which ended in failure and bankruptcy.
The list of business giants who have experienced many failures is long and storied. So what makes these titans of industry different from you and me? While you may never be the president of a multi billion corporation or play basketball like Michael Jordan, each of us has the potential to parlay our failures into valuable learning experiencing.
There’s no denying that in the competitive world of staffing, there is a sense that failure is not an option. It’s not realistic to assume that any company or organization can sit back and wait for clients or candidates to come to them.
But, the key is to understand that failure is part of the process; in so much so that clients may sometimes choose to work with a different agency or a candidate submission may fall through at the last minute. It’s not so much the failure that defines you or the company; it’s the response to that failure that matters most.
So what can failure teach us? First, it’s like a bucket of cold water. It wakes you up to the reality of the situation you are in. It gives you a jolt to your system; providing you with an opportunity to view your circumstances as they really are. The pivotal marker for any failure is determined by how you respond.
What comes next? Do you retreat and decide that you have no fight left in you? Do you make excuses or blame someone else? Or do you perform a constructive analysis of where you or your company may perform better, and then regroup and formulate a new plan?
Assuming that you’ve taken a constructive approach, the failure you’ve experienced may help you to grow as a person. Because we often have a very strong reaction to failure, our sense of clarity is heightened and the lessons we learn during this time often stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Failure, although often painful, can challenge us and be used as a powerful tool for personal development.
So let’s make the assumption that you failed completely. You may have lost your job or your company was forced to close its’ doors. Then what? Are you just supposed to smile and say, “Wow, this is a fantastic opportunity for me to grow! I’m glad this happened!” Of course not! No one expects you to deny your emotions. It’s vital that you acknowledge and feel your emotions. You just can’t live in that space permanently.
What’s important is to recognize that failure should be used as a tool to spur you or your company forward. Maybe the failed company will free you up to pursue the next big idea. Maybe a job loss will give you the time and energy to look for and secure that dream job.
But it’s also just as important for some people to acknowledge the failure, grieve appropriately, seek professional guidance if necessary and then find a way back to personal and professional fulfillment from there.
The last thing any professional coach or personal development specialist would claim is that one size fits all. Failure is an extremely personal event – even if there are a number of people experiencing it simultaneously. Everyone is different and therefore everyone views failure uniquely.
According to experts, failure can have a silver lining. Failure can cultivate a sense of empathy for what others may be going through. It can give you the sense that we are all human, and we are all more alike than we are different.
Failure can be humbling and if channeled properly it can be character building. Experts also suggest that those who have experienced failure tend to possess a well of kindness towards others that may not have otherwise developed.
No one likes to fail. We can all agree upon that. But failure and making mistakes are part of what makes us human. In many ways, failure levels the playing field, and it gives us the opportunity to look around and take notice that we are all in this together – trying to make our way.