Embrace Failure

December 17th, 2015 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Embrace Failure

missedShotI have set myself up for failure today. The list I made this morning of what I need to accomplish is already on the verge of becoming unachievable. I’m confident I’ll get through about 80% of my list, but that’s a 20% failure rate – not considered good.

However, if I were a baseball player and we were measuring my success rate at hitting the ball and getting on base, 80% would be viewed as phenomenal… I’d be in the record books with an 800 batting average. In baseball, if you hit the ball and get on base 33% of the time, you are considered one of the best hitters in the game. You are wildly successful and will most likely be rewarded with a very handsome and lucrative salary, even though two-thirds of the time that you step up to the plate to achieve what you’re supposed to achieve (hitting the ball and getting on base), you completely fail.

I think baseball actually has this right. Failure is an important part of what leads to success. Those who are universally acknowledged as being successful, have achieved their success because of how well they understood and used their failures. I remember an old Michael Jordan (the greatest basketball player ever – who also won 6 championships) commercial that did an amazing job selling his success by touting his failures. You could hear him saying these words throughout the commercial:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

We have come to understand success as a synonym for perfection. This understanding is limiting, and is creating a culture where we’re actually less likely to achieve real success. The biggest hurdle in creating success, is fearing failure. Failure is not an outcome. It is merely a step in a very long and wide process. Thomas Edison needed nearly 10,000 tries to come up with a filament for the incandescent light bulb that would last more than a few hours. Some saw his thousands of attempts as wasted effort, but Edison saw them in a completely different light – he discovered 9,999 things that didn’t work as good filaments, which was useful knowledge in itself. By knowing what didn’t work, Edison was eventually able to find what did.

We will fail – and hopefully it will happen to us every day. But we must re-learn that failure is not bad. Failure is not the opposite of success. It’s a step towards success. We must become comfortable embracing failure, otherwise we won’t engage in the risks that are necessary to be successful. Playing it safe can easily avoid failure, but playing it safe will easily avoid success as well.

I think Winston Churchill got it right when he said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Enjoy your success, but don’t discount your failures.