If it is the upcoming grand finale of the NFL season or the latest business idea to take flight, we often focus on the winners. They hold the trophy, they get the attention and the headlines. But consider for our purposes right now, the other side of the coin. I would propose we learn more, make more progress and have more to share from the times we fail. Please consider, as you move through 2018, how failure can fuel you to an even higher level.
Success is Overrated: For all our focus on winners, first think about some of the downsides to success. Too often we get so swept up in the victory we don’t take the time to figure out what else we can learn from the experience. We won! Who cares how we got here? Critical thought and analysis rarely follow a big victory. On the other hand, when we fail everyone wants to know what happened and what we can do to avoid the same fate next time. Which scenario offers the biggest opportunity for future success? Yep, here’s a vote for cheering on the next failure!
Of course, no one goes around listing all the times they have failed, but perhaps now you will be more likely to ask about those instances in job interviews. If you ask the question in the correct context – saying your culture understands and values what can be learned from failure – you can have a revealing conversation with that potential new hire. The same can be said for how you tell your story as an individual or as a company. The victories are great, but sometimes the failures are more revealing of who you are. And to that point…
Talk about the bad times: Whether you are presenting a new idea, in a job interview or proposing for a new piece of business, you are almost guaranteed to stand out if you include in your comments something about the bad times. Few people do it, and therefore there is a rich vein of storytelling opportunity found in failure. We tell more about ourselves and what we’re made of when we talk about the tough times. When those stories are mixed in with the things that have gone right, you present a balanced, mature view of the world. Frankly, maybe it’s the cynic in me, but when someone speaks only of happy times and sunshine I automatically become suspicious. (“Hey, it can’t all be THAT good. What’s this person hiding?”)
Include failure in your regular series of conversation items: If your elevator speech includes a hint of troubles faced you will open the conversation in ways you never could with a string of successes. It’s as if you are putting more of your cards on the table and the person you are talking with will be more likely to share. Everyone benefits.
So, the next time you are listening to a speech, proposal or just having a conversation, remember the power to be found in failure. We all have those stories, now it’s time to share them.