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Failure: The Ultimate Secret of Success

« on: March 13, 2015, 11:10:29 AM »  (Read 2286 times)
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  • Failure: The Ultimate Secret of Success
    By Randall Munson

    Your success may depend on something
    startling – your failure. That’s
    right, willingness to fail can be essential
    to success. Not very intuitive, right? Our
    formal education teaches just the opposite.
    An “A” is good; an “F” is bad. If you get
    lots of “A”s and no “F”s, you are a successful
    student. But that lesson doesn’t necessarily
    carry over to business. Our unwillingness to
    fail undermines our opportunity to innovate.

    Thomas Edison is considered the
    inventor of the practical incandescent light
    bulb. He didn’t get it right the first time. Or
    the second, third, or fourth. In fact, it’s
    believed he tried to invent the light bulb roughly
    1800 times. When asked, “What’s it like to have
    failed so often?”, he replied,
    “I didn’t fail – I invented the light bulb.”
    He knew failure was necessary to the process.
    In his words, “ I failed my way to success.”

    A well known business expert recommended
    “The way to succeed is to double your failure
    rate.” His name was Thomas J. Watson Sr.,
    the founder of IBM. Understanding that his
    probability of success increased with his
    failures, he, too, failed his way to success.

    Do you follow this philosophy, embracing
    failure as a means to greater success? You
    naturally reward employees or fellow team
    members for success. But if you want to keep
    them satisfied or keep them period, let them

    Let team members try new things
    that have a possibility, not a guarantee, of
    success; and whether they succeed or fail,
    reward them. Encourage their risk-taking. If
    they are punished for every failure, they will
    begin to suppress their imagination. As a
    result, you’ll get the same old stuff that
    works fairly well. But if you are willing to
    share the risk, it frees your team members to
    try new creative approaches and processes.
    You’ll tap into a fresh well of creative ideas,
    dramatically increasing your potential for a

    An executive with Hewlett-Packard
    told me how closely they track their failure
    rates in their printer development lab. If the
    failure rate gets too low, they get concerned
    and take corrective action. That is, they
    realize that if they aren’t failing enough,
    they aren’t trying hard enough. They aren’t
    creating the opening for those breakthrough
    ideas that are critical to success in a highly
    competitive field.

    Leadership expert Peter Drucker says, “
    The B3tter a man is, the more mistakes he
    will make, for the more new things he will
    try. I would never promote to a top-level job
    a man who was not making mistakes …
    otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.”

    On a baseball team the player who
    holds the record for home runs usually holds
    the record for another statistic – strikeouts.
    He’s willing to fail more than anyone else,
    stepping up to the plate to swing three times
    and then sitting down in humiliation. But
    the team keeps him because once in a while
    that player blasts the ball over the fence and
    scores the big run. Baseball legend Babe
    Ruth put it this way: "Every strike brings me
    closer to the next home run."

    According to Tulane University
    business professor Lisa Amos, entrepreneurs
    average 3.8 failures before they finally
    succeed in business. The average millionaire
    goes bankrupt three times. That’s a level of
    failure most of us try very hard to avoid. Yet
    that willingness to fail frees the truly
    successful to achieve their greatest goals.
    Fear of failure is paralyzing. But when we
    give ourselves permission to fail, we also
    give ourselves permission to succeed. As
    hockey star Wayne Gretski said, “You miss
    100% of the shots you never take.”

    Embrace the inevitable: you are
    going to make mistakes. Sure, you’ve
    heard the saying “practice makes perfect.”
    But think about it. If you practice, will it
    make you perfect? At best, practice makes
    improvement. But practice won’t make you
    perfect. You will never be perfect. Get over
    it. It’s impossible for you, your team, and
    your business to achieve perfection. By
    devoting yourself to achieving the
    impossible, perfection, you limit your
    opportunity to attain the possible. When
    you’re willing to take calculated risks and
    accept the failures that are part of the
    process, you gain the opportunity to make
    dramatic advances.

    Does a willingness to fail give you the
    excuse to deliver failing products or
    services? Of course not. As I discussed
    recently in an address at the US Department
    of Labor’s Excellence Conference, today’s
    quality conscious market demands
    excellence. But you can take a calculated
    risk while developing something new, then
    subject it to rigorous scrutiny. If it fails,
    fine. Learn what you can from the failure
    and try something else. If it succeeds you
    have gained an advantage over competitors
    who were trying to avoid failure.

    So go for it. Push yourself. Try
    something creative, realizing you may fail.
    Your failure won’t make you a failure. And
    it may just make you a success.

    Randall Munson, President of Creatively
    Speaking®, works with organizations
    around the world that want to do business
    more creatively and with event planners
    who want more exciting meetings and
    conventions. He is a Certified Speaking
    Professional, a distinction only 7% of
    professional speakers have attained.

    For a free press kit or to hire Randall
    to speak at your next meeting
    or call 1-800-294-1331
    or visit his web site,


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