How can failure be a good word? That’s probably the first thought that crossed your mind when you decided to read this article. Have you ever received an email saying:
“Congratulations on your failure…”
My first guess is, No. Why would we or anyone ever celebrate failure?! Right? I’ll tell you why. Failure really isn’t a bad word and here’s why:
Trying Is Crucial For Personal And Spiritual Growth:
Let's talk about Shiela...
Shiela was a Customer Service Representative and every inquiry or case that her manager assigned to her was surprisingly easy. She was easily able to provide solutions to her customers and even received great reviews for her services. For this reason, she got promoted to Manager because she obviously had it all figured out. She was a Pro!
She was now a manager and had a whole team to train. Everyone had heard about her, they were well aware of her status within the department and now, they were looking up to her for advice when they came across grumpy customers and complicated situations.
Not too long after she was promoted to manager, one of her subordinates came up to her with an anxious face. "Shiela, the customer won't listen. I have tried every possible reasoning. He just won't listen. He wants to end the contract right now,". As alarmed as Shiela was, she just didn't know how to handle this call. She eventually told the customer that she'll have someone else call him to deal with the matter with him in detail.
She knew that being a manager she should have dealt with this customer in a much more poised and solution-orientated manner but she didn't know how to do that because she didn’t have her fair share of complications as an associate.
You see – had she experienced different episodes of failure in the first few years of her career, she’d be prepared and know how to handle complicated situations with confidence and less confusion, and she’d be equipped with the instinctive ability to be proactive; and naturally intuitive.
Protecting ourselves from failure closes the door on our opportunity to learn and develop wisdom. It’s a pre-requisite for success. Sustainable success. Failure helps us come up with different plans of action and thus equips us with a better skill set to deal with challenges head-on.
Self Reflection Only Makes You Better
Michael was great with numbers. Everyone in the office just loved him for his amazing knowledge in the area of Finance. He was a great asset to the company. So they decided to see if he could help them in the Sales department as well. And so he was transferred to the Sales department.
In his first month as a Salesperson, he failed miserably to achieve the monthly target. His peers told him no one has ever failed to achieve the first month's target in the history of the company as it is intentionally kept attainable for the new associates. They made fun of him for being a "failure" and were rude enough to tell him that he should get himself transferred back to the Finance department because he was no good here.
However, Michael wasn’t ready to give up just yet. As upset as he was, he sat back and self-reflected on how he could better himself, so he can meet the sales target. After some time he came to the conclusion that to overcome this obstacle, he just needed to work on his communication skills.
So Michael took his supervisor in confidence and told him that he needed to take a workshop to better his command on verbal and nonverbal cues and his supervisor went along with the idea. After two months of rigorous workshop/training – Michael started working again on the target. And this time around, not only was he able to meet the target but also form real loyal customers that gave him amazing public feedback on their social media as well! He was given the "Star of the month" badge from his boss. Michael had never felt so proud of himself in his career up until now!
Would Michael ever be able to achieve that, had he not self-reflected? Would he have self-reflected had he not failed in the first place? No and no. So, failure gives us the opportunity to take a step back and self-reflect on how to become better - whereas, success hinders that process.
It Teaches Us Humility
No one is perfect. But a person, who has never experienced failure, succumbs to arrogance and looks down on people that don’t have a 100% success track record. They fail to realize that not everyone is the same and no two people can have the same skills and abilities.
Take the example of Michael, as discussed above. The sales team told him to get himself transferred back to the Finance department when he couldn’t hit the monthly target. They “judged” him. Why? Because they felt that he didn’t have what it takes to be a salesman. And why did they think that? Because never once had they had anyone not meet the target, so they automatically assumed that if a salesperson is unable to meet the first month’s target, they're no good.
This sort of behavior is not uncommon. We see people judging each other based on what they can and cannot do, simply because they feel that they are “perfect” at it. Why? Because they have never experienced failure in that particular area. And sometimes, these are the people that end up feeling like fools when the other person proves them wrong by surpassing them in their line of expertise.
So, what we need to understand is that, as we fail in life, we come face to face with the reality that it’s okay to not be perfect; it’s okay to not be an all-rounder. We should be giving people all the chances they deserve, and sometimes more, as we all experience differently, and uniquely. And just like that, as a society, we all grow.
It Aids A Better Perspective
When you fail, it causes you to rethink your approach, which opens up your mind and allows you to see things from a different perspective. How? Because now you know what DOESN’T work, and if you’ve never failed or given yourself the opportunity to reflect, you’d never grow. You’d live in a box.
This one time my friend Matt and his wife invited me over for dinner. While we were eating, his wife told their son – who was hardly around 3 years old – to pick up his toys from the living room. So he started picking up his Lego blocks and kept putting them in this huge basket in his room, one by one. He would come to the living room, pick up some of the Lego pieces, and then go to his room to put them in the basket. After a while, he seemed to get tired of this whole process.
He came back and tried to hold all the blocks together so that it would be his last run to his room before he could have dinner with us. But his tiny hands couldn’t hold them all. What this wonderfully smart three-year-old did next, really surprised me. He started putting those few blocks in his shirt! At first, I thought I should tell his parents but I wanted to see what he was doing. This boy stuffed his shirt and tightly crossed his arms around his belly so the blocks won’t fall off. Then he ran and put the last few Lego pieces in the basket. Tada! How conveniently done and what a brilliant idea?!
This little boy, who’d just turned three, came up with a new idea to finish his job efficiently. And how did that happen for him? Because he failed. He failed to hold all the pieces together because his hands were small. And that wasn’t his fault. But did that stop him? No. He looked at the whole thing from a new perspective and was able to fix the problem in a really efficient way! I still remember the look on his face when he made the last run to his room - it was on his face. Oh, the excitement! He knew that he’d done it!
So every time you fail, and you strive to better your approach – it doesn’t only broaden your horizon but also strengthen your will power and resolve; with every attempt, you’d feel ignited to be able to make it, and once you finally make it – it will be so worth it!
Success will only take you to the next door, Failure will show you there is more than one door
We’re living in an era where doing the right thing the first time is what matters. But a person that has never had the taste of failure, doesn’t value success as much as a person that has failed multiple times in the process of achieving his target.
Take the example of Sally, the customer service representative; she kept getting those empty promotions even when she wasn’t really qualified for them. Had she failed multiple times as an associate, and had worked on her communication skills, her promotion would have meant a whole lot more to her then! It would have been a true accomplishment and not just something that had fallen on her lap due to good fate.
Also, Michael had never felt so proud of himself up until he FAILED as a salesperson and worked on his skillset and eventually became the rockstar salesperson that he was. And the look on my friend Matt’s son was priceless when he could finally come up with a way to put all his toys away at once.
By the same token, when you fail, you realize that life is not just about going up; but about being whole. It’s not really about winning but achieving. And at times, you achieve more in failure than in winning. You better your skillset, you humble yourself down, you strengthen your resolve and you keep exploring new horizons.
So, the next time you fail – remind yourself that failure is a character-building moment and a deeper step into the game. So, get excited about maturity, knowledge, wisdom, skills, intangibles, perspective... GROWTH!