Hands up who loves to succeed? I can see everybody’s hand shoot up. Soooo – hands up who loves to fail? Go on, who loves to fail? Nope, not a hand in sight. Yet think about this for a moment – we all know the Oscars are what actresses and actors strive to win for their performances in the movies and yet the other day I saw Sandra Bullock graciously accept a Razzie award (for the worst performance) for her acting in a film (ironically she also got the Oscar for the same role in the same movie – but then the Americans have always confused me anyway).
As far as I know, the movies (and perhaps Idols) are the only place where participants are given the ‘worst’ award. Why is this do you think? Well, I think it is because as children we are taught to succeed and in order to succeed we cannot and must not fail. Well the word ‘fail’ is also a four letter word and in some households, being competitive is a way of life. Sadly many children grow up thinking that if they don’t succeed then they have failed and as I am sure you can imagine, this produces its’ own share of nightmares.
What about if we look at so called ‘failure’ from a different perspective? What about if we look at failure as an opportunity, not only to succeed in the future, but also as a ‘learning curve’?
Look, I’m not talking about looking at all types of failure as a good thing. Let’s be reasonable here – imagine if you will, you lying on the operating table, about to undergo a heart transplant, and the surgeon walks in and says “oh by the way, I am not a qualified surgeon, I failed all of my exams, but I am using this opportunity of cutting into you, as a learning curve and perhaps it will allow me to pick up my grades and qualify!” That’s just not good at all! No I’m talking about the everyday things that we fail at and then beat ourselves up about and yes, I’m even talking about failure of businesses or business ideas. Where those particular failures can be turned around and become huge successes. I’m talking about the way we look at things and how we react to what it is that we have looked at.
For many of us growing up, failure was not a word in our dictionaries, or in our vocabularies and it was certainly not something that we even considered. Yet it happened on a daily basis. I remember being about 8 years old or so, at boarding school and being picked for a team the first time – we were playing rounders during the 10am midmorning break. Now I have a problem judging distances, so trying to hit a tennis ball with a bat no thicker than a cricket stump, was a huge challenge. Needless to say I was never picked, voluntarily, again. This really suited me as it was not a game that I enjoyed and I was much happier sitting high up on a branch of my favorite tree, reading my book. Children, being who they are though, thought that this was absolutely terrible and they teased me relentlessly about the absence of my ‘batting’ skills. Right through junior school I was left out of the line up of any type of game that involved either a ball or a bat and I was repeatedly told how ‘useless’ I was, by kids and teachers alike. How crazy is that and how absolutely damaging it could have been for me. Fortunately, being an introvert and a loner, I was not really too interested in being part of the ‘gang’ and went about my business. Here’s the thing though – I may not have been very good at hitting a ball with a bat, but my senior school days brought out a different side of me and I did well enough on the track in high jump and long jump. I never won anything mind you, but that also never bothered me because for me it was about the enjoyment of the sport not in the winning.
So how about if we looked for the opportunities in the failure? Things like if ‘we did this in a different way’ or even ‘clearly this is not our thing in life – let’s look at what else is available’? What about if we looked at failure as an opportunity to ‘learn’ something new, or learn about ourselves or indeed, learn more about the product or service that we offer? What if in that failure and in the ‘learning’ we improved upon what it was that we had failed at? What if in that ‘learning’ we discovered something even better and grander and we became even more successful than we ever could have been with what we failed at – would we then still be considered’ failures’?
I don’t know! What I do know though, is that we are often so hard on ourselves that the damage that we do to ourselves is often irreparable. So instead beating up on ourselves, let’s look at the opportunities that our so called failures have brought and rather get on with the living of life.
Learn the lesson by all means, but then let it go and live!