I had a call the other week to participate in an upcoming conference in Sydney called Failcon. It’s a global conference that cracks open the taboo subject of failure – particularly that it’s ok to fail. More importantly it’s about exchanging stories of failure and what can be learnt from them. I was intrigued by the idea and agreed to be involved immediately.

Why? Because I’ve been to too many conferences that trot out “successful” entrepreneurs and business people who talk about what they did to make their organisations great. They engage you with their stories of success and you walk away with a mild, excited buzz but really no idea what to do next and no way to replicate their success. I want more than that. I want “warts and all.” I also want to know what they screwed up along the way, how they dealt with those mistakes and what those experiences taught them. I want the agony (i.e. the journey) as well as the ecstasy (i.e. the success).

Failure is a hard but effective teacher. The reason is because the experience is raw, embarrassing and personal.  Not to mention confronting. It is also inevitable and sooner or later everyone will screw up something. That’s just the way it is. Failure teaches you what works and what doesn’t. It doesn’t need to be fatal but it is always painful.

I’ve had my fair share of failures over the years. A couple of big ones and a lot of small ones. I don’t worry too much about them as they taught me more than any success ever did. I also subscribe to the old adage “show me a person who hasn’t failed and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t done anything.” So I get on with doing things, stretching myself to get better every day.

When I have failed is it usually because of three reasons:

  • I didn’t think big enough and therefore missed a significant opportunity
  • I procrastinated when I should have acted quickly
  • I trusted people that didn’t deserve the trust

These days I try to think differently (although I’m still learning and it is not always easy):

  • I focus on big opportunities
  • I aim to fail fast and inexpensively
  • I learn the (failure) lessons quickly
  • I don’t make the same mistakes again
  • I move to the next thing quickly

What I’ve learnt is that speed of action is crucial. Time is the most valuable resource any person has and yet it is the most common asset wasted.  Speed breeds urgency, momentum, passion and motivation and forces action to be taken. It is that bias for action that quickly overcomes failure and allows you to put it behind you.

The great basketball player, Michael Jordan missed 9,000 shots during his career and lost 300 games. He was also trusted to take the game winning shot 26 times and missed each time. Did he fail? Yes, regularly. Was he a failure? Hardly! It’s ok to fail (really it is) – just don’t dwell on it – learn the lessons and move on quickly. It’s character building and is just a road bump on your way to success…

Image sourced from A Common Blog