After overcoming obstacles all of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King was convinced that “the measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and adversity”
In our society, ‘fail’ has become an objectionable four-letter word, both personally and in business. We rarely use it, and most of us try not to even think about it, often resorting to blaming others about our personal misfortunes or perceived ‘failures’.
Young children learn early on that failing is not acceptable behaviour. In some cases, children are so frightened of failure that they often will not try out a new sport or accept a new challenge like learning a language. They have been conditioned to see failure as too harmful, too destructive and therefore to be avoided at all costs. It is far easier to say no and stay in a ‘comfortable’ place, than to risk ridicule from your peers and the outside world.
History is littered with examples of ‘failure’ that turned in some ways to triumph or success. The retreat of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk in 1940, Apollo 13’s abortive space mission, Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctica disaster are all examples of ‘failures’ that turned into triumphs of some sort. I too, have faced ‘failure’. My Indian Ocean Row in 2003 was a failure – in that we did not get to the end goal of rowing across an ocean. Did I find it easy to accept then – no. Do I find it easier to accept now – yes. I see it now as a triumph in understanding and developing myself.
Conversely by turning it around, it is also interesting that success is usually preceded by failure. In fact, most successful people today find that their success is the result of persisting beyond the disappointments and failures. Usually, not one failure but many failures enables them to discover their route to success. A great example of course is Thomas Edison and his desire to perfect the electric incandescent light bulb. Many ‘failures’ eventually led him to success and his now famous quote “We now know a thousand ways how not to build a light bulb”. A good 10 minute talk about present day failures being something that you can embrace and even applaud can be found in the TED talk by Astro Teller called ‘The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure’ _http://www.ted.com/talks/astro_teller_the_unexpected_benefit_of_celebrating_failure/transcript?language=en#t-527199
So, what choices do we have when faced with potential or actual failure?
Without doubt, the easiest choice is to be satisfied with failure and give up entirely. I mean completely walking away from something and never thinking about it again - ever. However, I say a very real option is to be persistent in achieving success, and ‘sticking in there’ by thinking about the motivation behind these 3 ideas:
So, it is up to you entirely what to do when things get tough – elicit help of course, work hard naturally, but keep going yourself is the key. Shifting perspective is sometimes more powerful than being smart, so a different perspective on the feeling and word ‘failure’ can bring unexpected results. You can most certainly do much more than you think you are capable of.
Finally, I give you one of my favourite quotes ever. It sums up what we all know to be true. No-one can knock the person who actually tried and gave it their best, whatever the outcome.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.
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