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Leadership Lesson 25 – Celebrate Failure

By: Curt Stowers

One of the best things about leadership is that the lessons come from the strangest places! To illustrate the next key step, we turn our attention to a poet from the UK in the early 1800's—Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson gave us these famous lines:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most;

'Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

(From Tennyson's poem "In Memoriam: 27")

All too often we believe —erroneously—that we have to be perfect. We spend inordinate amounts of time planning, redrafting, reviewing, circulating, wondering, emailing, redrafting, meeting, reviewing, and so on, and so on. You get the idea. We somehow believe that by spending a little more time, we'll "get it right" and it'll work out perfectly. How naive. How arrogant. The reality is you will fail. And falling prey to the "paralysis by analysis trap" isn't going to avoid the failure. It's simply going to delay failures occurrence and, in turn, delay you from getting to your objective.

Rule #25 - Encourage failure early and often.

By overcoming your fear of failure and embracing it, you can actually accelerate success's progress. Let's refresh your memory: Thomas Edison experimented with over 1600 different filaments before he figured out how to make tungsten work. One of his most famous quotes is, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Genius comes from embracing failure, analyzing why it occurred, formulating a new plan, and repeating the process. Each time we fail we gather critical information about the situation we are facing. Information that teaches us what will not work. Furthermore, each time we fail, we see that the world does not end. We see that we have learned something new. We show those around us that it's worth trying new things. We create a culture of curiosity that enables our team to do great things.

When you give up on perfection and embrace failure, you open the door to success. With each new trial you move a little bit closer to passing through that door.


ACTION ITEM 25 - The next time one of your team brings you a "failure," ask three questions: (i) "What did you learn?, (ii) "What are you going to try next?", and (iii) "How quickly can you try it?"


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