I’ve owned businesses that didn’t work. I’ve conceptualised numerous commercial ventures which, despite much work, time and energy, never made it past the theory stage. I’ve worked with talented athletes who, for a range of reasons, never realised their considerable sporting potential. I’ve given presentations which were crap. I’ve written articles which were not well received (and when I look back, were poorly written). I’ve had books rejected by publishers. Started a PhD that I didn’t complete. Conducted radio interviews which crashed and burned. Offended people while intending to inspire them. And last year I spent considerable unpaid time and energy filming a TV pilot which I was assured would be picked up by a network. It wasn’t.
While I could quite reasonably label my experiences failure, I don’t. And not because I’m some kind of Delusionite but because I discovered long ago that failure is more a matter of personal interpretation and perspective than it is some kind of universal experience. All of my less-than-desirable outcomes can become learning experiences if I turn down the emotion, self-pity and self-loathing and turn up the logic and reason. Just like success, failure is whatever I believe it to be. And while I’m well aware of (and realistic about) my poor results, I’m also aware that one bad experience (or ten, for that matter) is not necessarily an indication of my potential, possibilities or future. Which is why I’ve been happily failing for years.
Here are some good reasons to fail:
1. Perspective. For me, failure is always the great leveler and the great reality check. It keeps my ego grounded, my heart humble, my mind focused and my spirit committed to the cause.
2. It stops complacency. Some regular crashing and burning stops me from taking things (people, situations, opportunities, outcomes) for granted and from taking my foot off the pedal. In business, if I’m standing still, I’m going backwards.
3. Resilience. If you’re after greater strength (be that physical, mental or emotional) it’s crucial to keep working against resistance; to deal with adversity, not avoid it. It’s how we learn, grow and adapt. In the gym, we call this principle progressive overload. Outside of the gym, we call it life.
4. Understanding / Awareness. Ironically, I’d say that my failures have taught me the most about what’s required to succeed. My disastrous outcomes (there have been many) have taught me what not to do and how not to get the job done.
5. Creativity / Resourcefulness. Failure has forced me to tap into the untapped; to be more resourceful, creative and solution-focused. Some of my biggest ‘aha’ moments and personal breakthroughs have been the byproduct of unforeseen and undesirable outcomes. Sometimes, the sink or swim moment is exactly what we need to become the best version of us.