Learning from Failure

Learning from Failure

I admit I am an overachiever, and in fact, I remember my high school guidance counselor wrote in my college recommendation letters that I was an overachiever.  While this is mostly positive, one downside is that I fear failure and in fact this fear fuels my internal fire for success.  Since I am only in my late thirties, I have a lot more to experience and learn, but I am learning to transfer the fuel from fear of failure to the desire to succeed and reach my potential to be my fuel.  This is allowing me to not fear failure and be willing to learn from my mistakes and failures.  I share this with you because many business and military leaders likely have the same experience as mine, and I want to share a passage from the book Prisoners of Our Thoughts by Alex Pattakos, PHD, about failure.

“Life can be as full of failures as it is of successes.  Yet in our failures we can find tremendous meaning, and only in meaning do our failures have a useful legacy.  When our failures become useful, we triumph over them.  Instead of leading with our disappointment and bitterness…, we lead with our ability to have compassion and understanding – for ourselves and for others.  Then, in our search for our next [solution], we project wisdom and experience.  Our appeal is heightened and our possibilities increase.”  “Management guru Tom Peters, for instance, has advised that ‘only with failure can you verify wrong ways of doing things and discard those practices that hinder success.” (page 124.  I substituted ‘solution’ in place of ‘job, our next friend’.)

The book Prisoner’s of Our Thoughts is about the ability for all of us to discover and choose meaning in our professional lives.  It is based on Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy psychology.  Frankl, a Holocost survivor wrote about his experience of being able to still find meaning in a Nazi concentration camp, and finding meaning is based on the concept that all have the ability to choose our attitude in every situation.  His most famous book is Man’s Search of Meaning.  The essence I took from the passage on failure, is that I can choose my attitude about the failure.  I can choose to learn from it and I can choose to learn from it, and when I do, I will learn profound lessons from it, and something better will come from it though it may take some time.

Stephen R. Covey wrote the introduction to the book, and in the introduction he quotes a book he cannot recall the title to, and it says, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space lies our freedom and our power  to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and happiness.”

What motivates you?  How do you feel about failure?  When you have failed in the past, what attitude approach did you choose?  What did you learn from it?  How did you apply the lessons in the future?  Did positive outcomes or something better eventually emerge from it?

As leader, failure is inevitable.  No doubt it can be painful at times, but our ability to choose our attitude and what we are willing to learn from it, will dictate our ability to grow and learn, and eventually something positive to come from it.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankly and Prisoner’s of Our Thoughts by Alex Pattakos.

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.”  (Author unknown).

Cameron-Brooks and I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions you have for books or quotes we should include in future Career Tip e-mails.  We are avid readers and committed to lifelong learning.  We learn so much from our client companies, alumni and candidates.  Please e-mail me at jjunker@cameron-brooks.com with any suggestions or ideas for improving our Career Tip Email.

Joel Junker

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