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Lighthouse - September, 2018.


It is usually the case, when starting to write an article for Lighthouse ‘Kaleidoscope’; a telling question is prompted, “What happens if the editor doesn’t like it?” This is invariable one of those uncertainties that arise whenever we start something new.

For someone, who is lacking in confidence, the fear of being rejected and failing stops them from moving forward. Whereas those who have learnt to embrace failure are happy to forge ahead.

The majority of successful people will be able to relate how they failed, yet went on to achieve greatness. They will also be able to explain that there is a mind-set to the art of admitting failure and learning from it. Whatever our situation in life our approach, and reaction, to failure can determine our overall happiness.

Interestingly motor manufacturer entrepreneurs, from different generations, have approaches which inspire a positive aspect to failure.

Henry Ford – Ford Motors said, “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

Ratan Tata Chairman emeritus of Tata Group, when making a surprise appearance earlier this year at Tata Motors said, “We should all plan for being leaders and not followers.” He was remembering, no doubt, that successful leaders know how to rebound from failure. Both Henry and Ratan see failure as an opportunity, something to envelop.

But one of the hardest things to say is, “I’ve failed.” However by admitting it, we are releasing ourselves from being weighed down by it. Of course this isn’t easy as we have been taught, from an early age, that failure is bad so why should we welcome it?

Well consider the experience of acclaimed inventor Thomas Edison. His school teachers said that he was, “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being, “non-productive.” To top this Edison made some 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When he finally succeeded a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail a 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps!” This example highlights a unique characteristic of successful people – their ability to carry on with optimism, building on what they have learnt from failing.

There are those amongst us who will say I cannot afford to fail. This attitude is usually brought about because we don’t take time to count our blessings. When faced with a rather gruesome university exam paper which he feared failing; a student recalled that he was so wound-up that he decided, instead of cramming up to the last minute, to do something different. He got on his cycle and went out into the countryside. It was a bright sunny warm day and sitting down on a grassy verge, the thought suddenly came, “If I fail I will still be able to cycle here and enjoy what I am doing now – lazing in the sunshine.” Guess what? This student passed the examination with better than anticipated results. So by counting your blessings, it is often possible to spur yourself to success because failure has been put into its proper perspective.

Considering these ways failure can help focus our minds for better outcomes.

1) Failure makes success taste even better; because once we come to terms with failure we reassess our ability
to take greater risks.

2) Embracing failure inspires us; because we can identify our best skills through failure.

3) Failure grounds us. We realise that we are human and not always right.

4) Recognising that it’s only natural to fail and that everyone fails, even if they hide the fact. Like learning
to walk we may fall down but we keep on trying until eventually we can run.

But what happens if we suddenly realise something has gone really horribly wrong and it’s entirely our fault? Whatever happened, we were trusted to do a job, we failed and now we need to tell others. An initial reaction is to ‘duck and cover’ because, depending on how bad we screwed-up, it could mean the end of our career, job, status or reputation. Whilst many will try to weasel out of it, the fall-out will still be flying and probably hitting others, causing them to lose trust in us. Admitting our failure puts us on the road to dealing with it and may often be the first step towards making a successful turn-around.

Of course the universal champions at weaselling out of things are often the bureaucrats. They use the fall-back defence to avoid admitting failure with a non-admission of guilt exemplified in the phrase, “Mistakes were made – but there are lessons to be learnt and we will learn them.” If we hear anyone in our company saying this, look out for the red flags of failure!

However in summary, by applying these guidelines and taking on board these examples we will hopefully find ourselves in the same winning mind-set as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. Bill Gates said, “Once you embrace unpleasant news and see it not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, then you aren’t defeated by it.”

Whilst for many Jeff Bezos gave a most telling quote. When considering failure he said, “I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”

So what to do if the Lighthouse Editor doesn’t like this article? Mark it up, not down, to experience and write something else – the next ‘Kaleidoscope’ will definitely be brilliant.

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