Thursday, September 5, 2013

The One Key to Success: Massive Failure

I was talking with a teacher about a student in her classroom whose behavior was out of control one day to the point that she decided he needed a visit to the principal to reinforce the rules. She had to admit that she was amused however at his comment upon arriving at the principal’s door. It seems that under his breath he muttered, “I bet nothing good ever comes out of a visit here…”

Success is a word that is discussed and thrown around a lot.  In schools, teachers are focused on making sure students are successful.  Businesses set  and achieve goals in order to be successful.  We are all interested in learning how to be successful in our careers, in our family life and in our social life.  We can even learn how to  be successful in our spiritual life. There are books, classes and even coaches who chronicle how to be successful.

Failure on the other hand is something to be avoided, isn't it?  There is lip service given to learning from our mistakes, but do we really accept failure as a necessary part of the path to success?  Do we dash head long into failure or try to skirt around it?  In a recent article from Darren Hardy of Success magazine, he writes that some of the best advice he ever got on how to be successful, was to increase his rate of failure.  He was told he should try to fail fast and often.  Does this sound crazy to you?  Does it make you nervous? It does me!

What are the benefits of failure?

  • "I wasn't failing, I was learning how to succeed."  This quote from Ted Turner reframes the experience of failure.  Rather than looking at it as something to avoid, he approaches it as a learning opportunity.  There is much to be gained from failure and not just how to avoid it next time.  Sometimes there is opportunity in failure to begin again using the lessons learned. 
  • "The key to success is massive failure... whoever can fail the most, the fastest and the biggest, wins."  Tom Watson of IBM.  How can this be true?  Here is an example:  Today when I stopped for gas, there were several sales people offering to spray some magic wax product on cars as a demonstration of it's amazing ability to clean off all kinds of stuff.  Some of the sales people were standing around looking uncomfortable, but the one that approached me knew what he was doing.  He wasn't pushy just helpful. He identified things on my car that needed cleaning and showed the benefits. He showed off the product. He made a sale.  When you are selling, the more chances you take at failure, (in this case approaching people who may say no), the more chances you have that you will find the people who want to say yes.  How many no's does it take to  get to a yes? An average of seven, I've heard. If you approach failure as a necessary experience to get through to get to yes, it becomes something you want to seek out frequently.
  •  "The increase in volume, speed and size of my failure also increased the volume, speed and size of my success."  Darren Hardy, publisher and founding editor of Success magazine.  What if you set a goal for yourself, not of how many times you could succeed but of how many times you could fail?  What if the magic wax salesman set a goal of.... maybe 25 no's in a day, or in a couple of hours?  What if he met his goal?  Don't you imagine that he would have also been the most successful of the sales team that day?  Those other sales people who were standing around waiting for things to happen didn't hear any no's... they also didn't hear any yeses.  He would have taken the most risks but he would have also reaped the most benefits.  He would have heard, "No thanks" the most but I bet he would also have heard "Ok, I'll buy that"  the most too.  In the process, he would also have learned a lot about the best approaches to use and practiced them the most frequently. 
Failure.  A word and experience that most of us avoid.  But contrary to  popular belief, failure isn't the end of the road, just the beginning of a new path.  Failure isn't just useful.  It isn't just a great opportunity to learn.  It is often a necessary part of success.  In many cases, where there is no failure, there is no success.

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  1. I love this perspective, Lynne! It is a great reminder to all of us to just get out there and try, no matter what. I'm going to engage this philosophy at all my upcoming book signings.
    Blessings, my friend!

  2. Thanks Martha... mindset and perspective is so important!