FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS: The only real failure is not learning from our mistakes
The 8 Key Catalysts are principles to live by that I believe have made my life meaningful and successful. Last month I wrote about Integrity. This month I continue with the second key, Failure Leads to Success.
We all make mistakes; we all have failures. Failure Leads to Success is about looking at mistakes or failures as feedback, learning from them, and growing from them. During my life I've learned a lot from my mistakes — and I've had a lot to learn from! What about you?
Think about the word failure. What emotions does it stir up? For many, the emotions are mostly negative, like guilt, disappointment and inadequacy. When we fail we often feel incompetent, embarrassed and disheartened. We don't want to try again because of the risk. We worry about our image.
We didn't start out with negative feelings about failure. Toddlers learning to walk aren't weighed down with feelings of incompetence. When they fall repeatedly they stand up and try again, and again — until they succeed and keep on walking without falling. But somewhere along the way we learned that trying and not succeeding was bad — that we were bad when we didn't succeed, then, that trying was bad.
Failures Are a Lot Bigger On the Inside Than They Are On the Outside
It’s actually not our failures, but how we think about them that gives them the power to hold us back. When we fail, we experience two types of consequences —internal and external. External is what happened — just the facts. Internal is how we feel about ourselves from what happened.
For example, think back to your school days, to that math exam you botched your sophomore year. The external consequences were a bad grade and maybe a stern lecture from your parents. The internal consequences were those persistent voices in your head that whispered, “You’re no good at math. You’re too stupid to do this.” The bad grade came and went. The little voices stayed, often long into adulthood.
Learning to Learn From Failure
Early in my career I faced a significant failure. Hoping to increase the reach of the educational business I was operating, I went into an investment opportunity that produced a great return for a while, then suddenly went very wrong. I lost everything — my home, possessions, money, and friends. I felt like I was a complete failure.
For a time, I couldn't find anything positive in my situation. But after a while I began to realize that I hadn't really lost everything — I still had my strengths, talents and dreams. I took one step forward that soon resulted in the start of SuperCamp and the Quantum Learning Network. My work brings me much joy and fulfillment, and I feel it would not have come about without all the experiences (positive and negative) that led me here.
Feedback Is an Important Part of the Learning Process
In Quantum Learning Network, we work continually at building a culture that thirsts for learning and feedback. At staff trainings we give each other "gems" (things that are done well) and "opps" (opportunities for improvement).
During a recent program, I was particularly moved by the impact of a session with students. I thought it was masterfully delivered and went up to the facilitators to tell them how impressed I was by their presentation. They smiled at me in silence, then after a pause one of them said, “We’re really more opportunities people. What feedback do you have for us on where we can improve?” I truly believe our staff gets the positive results they do because they treasure feedback and look at it as a gift.
Mobilize Failures: Turn Defeat into Victory, Failure into Success
Failures offer us amazing opportunities when we treat them as gifts. If we’re failing, it means we're moving out of our comfort zone and taking risks. We’re giving ourselves the chance to learn. We need to be sure to give ourselves credit for that.
I recently listened to the life story of Dr. Ted Morter, a leading innovator in healthcare for thirty years. He has a scientific mind and throughout his story he