Today is the International Day for Failure and I’m here to share a few of mine. When I pause and think, I can easily say I owe most of my success in life to prior failures. So do many famous individuals. From the lips of Thomas Edison to Coco Chanel, there are plenty of quotes reflecting on the importance of failure. Here is one of my all-time favorites from Paulo Coelho: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
I’m not a personal coach or an expert on the subject matter so I’ll sprinkle my experience with external resources in the hopes of failing better with you. I believe lasting success lies in first having the skills and courage to fail gracefully, then dissecting and evaluating the findings carefully to recover and recalibrate as needed. As I often do, I’ll break this into sections below.
Skills & courage to fail gracefully
At the age of 18 I was the only person behind Chat Tech. My passion was building custom computers, up until someone passed a bad check and disappeared with a computer that cost me 1K to build (a lot of money back in 1998). I felt so ashamed of running into financial trouble because of this one sale. Even though this was a weakness in the collections side of the business, I stopped building/selling custom computers for 6 months. Failure is marketed to us as shameful encounter which teaches us to fear and avoid it. According to UC Berkeley research, we protect our self-worth by avoiding failure. The reality is that failure is not about self-worth. Failure is just trying and without trying there is no chance of succeeding. In the face of failure, keeping our head up high and accepting the reality of the results provides necessary opportunities to improve. Here are 5 important skills to deal with failure.
Dissect and evaluate each failure
In the very early days of Chat Tech, we became partners to sell an anti-virus software. The product offered good security but had no way for us to monitor virus detections or signature updates, and no way to auto renew licenses. Having clients come back with infections and out of date virus software was a major learning experience. When looking at the client’s experience, we saw failure in each step and took action immediately. We switched to a product that would auto-renew and provide us with a dashboard to monitor the status of all devices we looked after. If a lesson is to be learned, the steps that led to the failure should be broken up to be looked at carefully. There have been many cases where I have learned different lessons from each step leading to the failure. Also, not all failures are the same. Here is a great article to help dissect each failure to extract the most amount of lessons.
Recover and recalibrate
I imagine most of us have experienced a heartbreak that led us to promise we’d never be vulnerable again. As a young boy, I learned pretty quick that I couldn’t keep the promise of not ever falling in love again, but looking back I realize that was my way of buying time to recover from the heartbreak itself. Not all failures are the same as some take longer to recover from than others. However, one should always lead with the understanding that recovery is a temporary period, not the final destination. Here are some great tips to help start over. When the jolt of recovery fires the spark again, taking all the lessons learned by using the methods above help identify what needs calibration. Referencing the failure of our early on experience with providing anti-virus software to clients at Chat Tech, there was a moment we thought the risk of losing our reputation wasn’t worth the trouble. We considered referring clients to purchase their own Anti-Virus. However, learning from the lessons, we didn’t give up and instead simply calibrated our execution. We put together a much more comprehensive way to look after computers with CTS Computer Care plan, making sure we can meet the challenge and our clients can sleep easy at night.
We started with one favorite quote on failure and we’ll finish with another by Robert F. Kennedy: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
– Burak Sarac, Team Lead
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