How to be successful at risk-taking and learn from failure!
This blog is all about FAILURE or rather, how we can learn from failure by embracing risk-taking for continued success. We live in a society that not only does NOT embrace failure, but teaches us from an early age to avoid failure in all of our pursuits.
Redefining Failure as a Motivational Tool.
What if, rather than running away from the stigma of failure, we changed our mindsets to fail GREATLY and strive to learn from failure? Examples of how a willingness to fail have led to societal success are all around us.
* The Wright Brothers brought five sets of spare parts with them every time they went out to test fly their latest plane design. Why? Because that is how many times they typically crashed, before they called it a productive day. The failures were all about learning what worked and what didn’t. They then went back to the drawing board until they became the first to successfully achieve manned space flight.
* Thomas Edison never saw his stalled attempts at inventing to be failure. He considered all of his “failures” to be successes in that he learned what didn’t work and was able to adjust, adapt and move on. When he was inventing the light bulb he was quoted as saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
What Can You Learn From Your Past Failures.?
Think about the goals you set for yourself at work and before/leading up to the New Year. What if every goal that we set for ourselves was a “STRETCH” goal, something that we work have to work extremely hard and challenge ourselves to learn new skills and try to do things a different way and there was still not a strong guarantee of success? Would you accept these goals? How many pursuits have you passed up in life for a fear of failure?
Why Embracing Failure Is So Important In Today’s World.
We live in an age of uncertainty, constant change and technological advancements occur at a more rapid pace than at any time in our history. To thrive in such an environment of repetitive chaos, we MUST take calculated risks, dare to fail greatly and learn from our mistakes so we can be successful. Why? Because what worked for us yesterday may not work tomorrow. Conversely, what we tried yesterday that failed may actually work for us and be our greatest option moving forward.
“Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Mary Pickford.
We need to learn the discipline of taking more “strategic” risks. In conjunction with more calculated risk-taking where we weigh the relative merits and potential drawbacks of the risk, we must also test, evaluate, and adapt or behaviors as we undertake the risky endeavor for the greatest potential lesson learned. Here’s how we can accomplish this:
* Set guidelines: Establish benchmarks to determine what a successful outcome to the risk would look like. Define success and failure in quantifiable terms then test, test, test through the new path taken. “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Henry Ford
* Maintain emotional detachment: Do not be so emotionally committed to a particular course of action that you cannot or WILL NOT change, if circumstances dictate you deviate. What this entails is creating a culture that embraces, identifies, and takes advantages of unforeseen opportunities as they arise. Learning organizations evolve and adapt and a necessary aspect/trait of the organizations that do this best is a constant embrace of risk-taking. Other key attributes of learning organizations include:
* Employ job rotations: move people from department to department so they get a much broader view of the organization they work for;
* Implement creative problem-solving: there has been a tremendous increase in recent years in the study of the creative process for artists and musicians as a discipline for senior management;
* Embrace a policy of demanding your people ask “WHY?” and “WHAT IF?” constantly, in order to always challenge accepted behaviors, systems, rules, and processes;
* Reward risk-taking: if the risks taken lead to an advancement in the individual’s learning, skill sets, knowledge base or experience that can be leveraged for success in future use; and
* The law of “unintended consequences“: Often when we set out to accomplish a task if we don’t achieve that specific goal it is deemed a “failure.” However, a “failure” in achieving one desired outcome may actually pave the path to success in other pursuits, challenges, or uncover unforeseen opportunities. Given employees completely “unstructured” time with no commitments to think freely. This also should include spending a certain percent of your time focused on thinking solely about the future. What does it look like, and how do you see yourself most actively/effectively “engaged.”
We Need a New Model of Failure.
What if we forced ourselves to take on an entirely new set of psychological responses to failure? What if, instead of thinking of failure as an indictment of our own personal failure, and shortcomings, it became a gift – an opportunity to learn? In this new paradigm of failure as a lesson learned, we reward the risk taken as a badge of honor and NOT as a damning conclusion of our supposed inabilities.
How Embracing Failure Benefits Everyone.
The beauty of taking greater risks with a much larger potential pay off has universal human appeal, whether you are starting a new business, changing careers, going back to school, re-entering the workplace, changing (foregoing) college in the pursuit of a trade, etc.
Einstein said: “Insanity is the act of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.” Instead of embracing the philosophy of “stick with what works” you understand that you can only advance by trying new things to fight the creature of habit syndrome. If we are not willing to modify our behavior by taking risks and trying new things, we cannot expect to adapt.
So, every time you face the prospect of failing and feel a tremendous sense of foreboding ask yourself: “So what if I fail?” And then very quickly ask: “What if I succeed?” You will be amazed how liberating it is, and what you can achieve when you remove the fear of failure.
Here is to a great, successful, achievement-filled 2013!
Great resources to Learn from failure:
* The Wisdom of Failure.
* Strategies for Learning from Failure article by Amy C. Edmondson, professor at Harvard University.
* Failing Forward by Chris Burge Ministries.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach
How to be successful at risk-taking and learn from failure!