The Power of Rethinking “Failure”

If you are a leader in business or an organization, take a new look at what you might have always perceived as failure. What if you could learn why you should look forward to failure, and how it can help you ultimately get where you want to go? For instance, when you read this statement, what’s your reaction?

“There is no such thing as failure.”  

Do you think it’s true? Maybe it makes sense to others but not to you. But what if you learned that you have the power to decide whether or not something is indeed, a “failure” or not, changing your whole idea about failure?  In fact, some highly successful people have already learned to look at the word failure in a very different way than others.  Let’s talk about why.

Why Others Watch a Leader Handle Failure 

Doing something that seems to be a failure shows the fact that you are only human. People watch how a person of stature handles a mistake and how that person recovers from it. Watching isn’t to be cruel, but it gives others hope that they too could recover from a mistake. 

Mistake making takes on a whole new form when a person sees how a leader faces and overcomes a problem. Everyone can have a failure or a setback but not everyone knows what to do about it. Making a successful comeback after a failure can increase your reputation, build confidence and show you as a person of integrity. The comeback doesn’t even have to be huge or earth shaking. It just has to happen. 

When “Failure” is Feedback 

What if starting today, the idea of failure took a radical change in your vocabulary? What if failure really meant a form of success? How could you acknowledge your success, even as you speak the word “failure”? Well, you can point out these ideas:  

  • That everything you learned in the process of getting to where you are now is not going to get thrown out — you learned good things to keep along with the stuff that didn’t work.
  • That simply being able to recognize everything hasn’t gone according to plan, or achieved the desired outcome (i.e. “failed”), is in itself a positive outcome
  • That even if the specific method you used this time around wasn’t the right one for this situation, you can surely use bits and pieces and parts from what you learned in another project or idea.
  • That you can eliminate and not repeat the same behaviors the next time a similar situation arises. Failing to achieve a goal in one way just increases your creative understanding of what works for a situation, project, or idea or what doesn’t.
  • That you’ll know to do things differently in the future. You will create in a new way to approach a problem and your creating will be quicker and more confident as a result of knowing what not to do? 
  • That the experience has enabled you to grow in some way. Adversities, set backs, failures, hard times — all of these things only make you a stronger and more confident person. 

Failure can simply be a great way to get you to pause in the midst of your process, and get some critical information to indicate that you may need to change directions, try something new, continue your learning, or shift your focus. 

Imagine what would happen if you didn’t get that feedback, and continued endlessly along the wrong path, towards the wrong goal, or without ever learning a new approach? It not a pretty thought. Therefore, make time to rethink the idea of failure. Failure can really be seen as positive feedback, providing information that gets you back on the right track! Without feedback you would surely be lost. The key is to quickly identify what isn’t working so you can change direction, try something new, or shift your focus. 

How would thinking of failure as a welcome invitation to understanding a better way to pursue you life dream change your thinking? Here are some tips: 

  • Always have a clear idea of where you want to go and continue to re-evaluate it as you move forward
  • Identify specific milestones or markers along the way, to let you know you’re on the right track and celebrate each success
  • If something doesn’t appear to be working, or working fast enough, don’t hesitate to try something new
  • Continually learn from others. These can be people you work with, experts in your field, mentors, or leaders that have travelled a similar road.

Remember, no one has to stay in the same place in life. If things are not working in the direction you are headed, stop and go another way. If you tried something one way, make a change in your activity until you find out what really works. Life is a series of starts and stops. Just think of how much experience you have in different areas of life when you try something and learn new things from that experience.

Keep trying new things; never plan to stop learning, trying, experimenting, and creating. This gives a leader the confidence needed to succeed. Consider the idea of rethinking failure as a way to reach success and strengthen your leadership skills instead of a way to set you back. You will take more risks, try more challenges and increase your overall successes.