Show me a person who says he’s never failed and I’ll show you a person who’s never accomplished anything in his life. Every person on this planet has failed at some point. The difference between those who moved on to succeed and those who continued to fail came down to their perception of failure. One embraced failure while the other was consumed by it.
Growing up, we were all taught and conditioned to view failure as a negative. If we fail, we are weak. If we fail, we are unlucky. If we fail, we should just quit. But the fact of the matter is we were born to fail. We are flawed, rational yet emotional human beings. We are complex creatures; dynamic yet static, ever evolving but stagnant, influenced by factors that exist within our environment.
Every day we wake up, we are confronted by choices. And every decision we make leads to a series of outcomes; each one dependent on the other. Every decision results in consequences and we have no control whether these will be good or bad. Think about it.
You’re on your way to work. On the intersection, you see that the usual route is packed with cars. It looks busier than usual. You cannot see how traffic looks on the other side because cars going to the opposite side are obstructing visibility. But still you make the decision to turn left.
The consequence could be more traffic or less traffic. The outcome would either be you would be late or early for work. Did you have any control of the situation? No. But at least, you made the decision. Otherwise, you’d still be stuck in traffic.
And that is the point. Decisions have to be made because you an outcome has to be determined; an outcome of which you have no control. It’s either you succeed, you fail or stay stuck and unmoving. Every day failure is our traveling companion on this journey called life. But failure exists to guide not to detract us.
Here are reasons why you should embrace failure:
1. It is Not an Option
To detest the idea of failure is to deny your humanity. Failure is part of who we are; it is in our DNA. You cannot do anything about it. Even if you lock yourself in your own room you will still fail. You know why? Because you will miss opportunities.
Failure is very painful. Even the greatest athletes in the world feel pain. Search for the video of Roger Federer’s loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open. Federer is acknowledged as the greatest Tennis player of all time. He has a net worth of over US$320 Million and earns more than US$20 Million a year in prize money and endorsement deals.
Yet when he lost to Nadal, he cried unabashedly in front of millions. Not all the money in the world, the trappings of fame could hide his pain. People made memes of Roger crying and called him “soft”, “old” and proclaimed his run as greatest ever was over.
In response, Roger kept quiet and did what he always did: win. After losing the Australian Open, Roger annexed the French Open crown held by Nadal and won Wimbledon. In 2010, Roger won the Australian Open and US Open and claimed his position as the world’s best tennis player.
How would describe the feeling of failure? For me, it feels like a hard uppercut to the gut. You lose your breath and feel like you’re about to keep over. But you have to learn to deal with the pain of failure because there will be more incidents down the road. Psychologists say that when you experience failure, wallow in its pain until you grow numb. Then put it aside and focus on getting better.
2. Perfection Is Impossible
Before the end of the Cold War, businesses focused on creating the perfect strategy. The conditions for designing a perfect strategy were ideal back then because there were many barriers set up to protect vested interests.
When the Berlin Wall came down, it signified more than the end of a controlling political system. It also tore down walls in social, economic and cultural structures all over the world. It was a precursor for global transformation. Businesses set out to discover unchartered territories for new growth opportunities.
Then the Internet put transformation light years ahead. From 16 million users in 1995, the Internet had 300 million in 2000. By 2005, Internet accessibility reached half a billion people. Fast forward to the present and there are 3.3 Billion on the Internet every day!
The globalization of business and the evolution of the Internet have made conditions more volatile, unpredictable, chaotic and ambiguous or VUCA as the Army College described it. VUCA has made competition tighter and more intense. The power of digital technology has given us the ability to do more things at a faster pace. But that also increased the possibility of making mistakes.
Under a VUCA environment, perfection is impossible because the risk of failure is greater. Forget about investing in a Perfect Plan. Instead, focus your resources on flexible business systems.
Follow the 80-20 Rule: Spend only 20% on strategy design and 80% on implementation. This way you will be able to anticipate failure before it happens. And when it does, you will be ready.