During one of my recent long journeys I was listening to a audio CD from Darren Hardy, the publisher of USA’s Success Magazine, talk about ‘Failure’ and how, as a leader and entrepreneur, he has learned to love failure. Darren believes it has made him successful in his life and business. Personally, I have long believed that if you have not experienced failure how do you know what success feels like? So his messages resonate with me.
Listening to this presentation while driving home, I thought of my biggest failure of my first career – and perhaps it is no exaggeration the biggest failure of my life – it is the 30th anniversary of this failure. There is rarely a week that goes by when I don’t think about it.
But this blog is all about inspiration and about helping you on your leadership journey, so my story is a very positive one which I want to share with you. My failure helped me to become a stronger person; have a successful career after my failure; stopped me from being complacent (ever again!); made me hungrier for success and value success when it came my way.
I had failed a course on the last day. Why?
- I had not mentally prepared enough.
- I had focused on my strengths and not addressed my weakness prior to the course
So how did I recover from my momentous failure?
(I now use these strategies whenever I have failure – they work for me and help me bounce back quicker)
- Allow yourself 24 hours of pity time – its ok to feel sorry for yourself – but you need to set a time on this.
- After your 24 hours, do something that takes your mind off your failure. I hopped on a ferry to see Joyce for the day in Belgium. Joyce was seeing out her contract prior to moving back to the UK and it got things into perspective for me. That day was one of the best days of my life!
- As Sir Ernest Shackleton, the polar explorer and one of my Heros said “A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground”. During my journey home from Belgium I figured out what I was going to do next and I set myself new objectives which were equally challenging
- Look for quick wins. Look for easy wins……. to get your confidence and self-esteem back.
- Set yourself a 3 month a 6 month and 12 month plan
- Look for new opportunities
- Do something new – allow yourself to go down a different path. There is a lot to be said for ‘fate’and I often feel that these failures are meant to happen to allow more good things to occur. How many times have you been unsuccessful for a job you interviewed for, only to think years later “that was fortunate because I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now” – I know that’s happened to me a few times.
- Put some distance between your failures (at least 3 months) then analyse what went wrong what could you have done different?
One of the perks of two long careers and my age is that I plan for success, but I am not surprised by failure. One of my favourite quotes is “If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change. If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change” John A Simone Sr said it. So, in short, don’t be surprised by failure and do not let it throw you. Failure is good – although I am not sure if I have learned to love it yet! Failure, when it happens, helps me:
- To get things into perspective
- Makes me hungrier for success
- Reinforces the importance of family
- Allows me to explore new opportunities – perhaps go down a completely new path that will make me more successful
- Makes me more experienced so when I am up against it again I know I will get through it
So 30 years ago what did I do next? I passed my next course; I married Joyce four weeks later; managed and captained our athletics and cross country teams to success; I was selected for an elite team which won a competition two years in a row; 12 months later my wonderful daughter Jennifer was born (the other best day of my life) and at the end of my posting I was promoted and we all moved to Berlin
“Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember” Anne Sullivan