Performance Improvement & Professional Development

Success Key: See Failure As Feedback

There’s an old adage that says success breeds success and, to a certain extent that’s true. Successful people tend to make success a habit, regardless what they do. The reality however is that successful people have a whole different take on failure than most. The successful, in any endeavor, learn from their failures and mistakes and keep moving forward. The successful see failure as feedback.

One of the strongest indicators of how failure impacts a person long-term is how they respond right after it takes place. In fact, research shows the key response to know if a person or an organization’s failure will lead to further tragedy or turn to success is simply this: they own the failure? Heads up United Airlines.

We can only receive what failure has to teach us if we’re willing to fully embrace the failure itself. When you’re willing to accept the fact that failure occurred, you also get the positive lessons failure teaches.

Failure Feedback

Failure teaches that success rarely comes from a “big break.” Success comes from hard work. Someone once said: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Failure teaches us to try different avenues for reaching our goal. There is usually more than one way to achieve our objectives. We just have to be willing to keep trying after something doesn’t work.

Failure teaches us that not everyone has our best interests in mind. Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer, right?

Failure teaches us to trust that gut feeling – the intuitive sense we all have – and should probably use more often.

It’s almost counterintuitive to see how we might actually benefit from failure but, there are actually some very positive benefits from not achieving an intended objective.

Benefits of Failure

Clarity: Catastrophe creates clarity. Failures, especially big ones, force us to clear our heads and rethink what we’re trying to do.

Creativity:  Failure forces you to ramp up your creativity and generate fresh possibilities – attract new resources or implement a new vision.

Grit: If you get slammed by a failure and bounce back that is called resilience. If you learn, adjust and actually come back better than before, you have grit.

Freedom: Accepting failure requires humility. If you own your failure, you are liberated. You can now go about your business without the constant pressure to appear everything always goes just as planned.

Seeing Failure As Feedback

Please understand, I’m not advocating for or encouraging failure. No one wants to fail. But what I am saying is that we can learn a lot from our mistakes and failures. I’d argue we probably learn more from our failures than from our successes. Failure isn’t fatal. Use failure as a scorecard. Learn from the feedback you get from what didn’t work. Make the necessary adjustments and press on.

Worth Remembering

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” – Gena Showalter

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

About the Author

Les Taylor is the founder and managing partner of Outperformers International. He is an award-winning author, professional speaker and recognized expert in the field of performance improvement and professional development. Les is a former law enforcement executive, served as the executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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