From my favorite business development program, www.BookYourselfSolid.com As an educator, I always want my clients to know and accept that “there are no failures, only lessons.” Enjoy!
How I Nearly Got My Mouth Washed Out With Soap
Growing up in my family, we never talked about the F word. It was never, ever tolerated.
My mother was an especially difficult taskmaster. The mere possibility of the F word would incite her fury; and her condemnation. I could get my mouth washed out with soap!
The F word: Failure. Bad.
If I brought home a paper or a quiz with a B+, my mother would say, “That’s nice, dear. But it’s not as good as an A.” If I came home with an A, she’d smile and observe, “That’s wonderful dear. But it’s not as good as an A+.” A shadow would hang over a 99; after all it wasn’t a 100. (“Not good enough” was the message.)
While this spurred in me a drive toward perfection and excellence (and no doubt a bit of neurosis), it also deprived me of opportunities. I eschewed risk because risk could lead to failure.
I have come to discover – and appreciate – that there are no failures. Only lessons.
In his fascinating book, Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed contrasts how failure is understood in the fields of aviation and healthcare. In aviation, pilots and teams are encouraged, without penalty, to disclose and report errors. Failures (accidents) are relentlessly scrutinized (often by analyzing black box data).
The information gathered is meticulously analyzed, clearly assimilated and rapidly disseminated so that ever more reliable systems and processes can be implemented. The culture surrounding the aviation industry expects and demands this; and the result has been that the fatality rate in aviation has plummeted.
Aviation accidents now are rare.
Health care, on the other hand, has demonstrated a culture of obfuscation when it comes to failure. It tends to deny and cover up its errors. Some physicians tend to have an aura of infallibility. The hierarchical structure discourages the questioning of a physician’s decisions. Bad outcomes are clothed in euphemisms. Incident reporting is often frowned upon, and sometimes punished. There is no standardized industry-wide error reporting system.
Preventable medical accidents are now rampant… and increasing. (By one estimate equal to a jumbo jet falling from the sky every single day!)
In aviation, failure is the opportunity to learn. In health care, it is a call to circle the wagons… and hide.
What will it be for you?
Too often, fear of failure has caused me to keep my head down, to play it safe. Too often I haven’t pushed the edges: Those edges where we grow. (And beyond those edges – oh my, that’s where the magic dwells.)
Too often, I have made failure personal, a sad story all about me. Rather than saying “It didn’t work,” I would think, “I didn’t work. Poor me.”
But what’s true is this: Great minds, great creators, great artists, great athletes, great innovators… they embrace failure. They seek it out. They see it as part of a magnificently generative process. They see it… as opportunity.
They know that the faster you iterate, the faster you fail, the faster you learn what doesn’t work, the faster your journey to success.
I have discovered, too, that following a tried and true formula like Book Yourself Solid® ensures faster iteration and reliable results.
By now, I have made a gentle peace with failure. I’m not yet courageous enough to seek it out. But when it shows up – as it often does – I sit it down and listen to it. I study it; and learn from it as best I can. And quietly remind myself that “it” didn’t work; that I’m ok.
Because I have come to know this: When we study failure – and learn from it objectively – we grow, our businesses flourish, and our lives become richer. When we fear and eschew failure, we deny our humanity, we narrow our potentiality, and we disserve our destiny.
There is a weary world that needs us, that desperately needs us to show up now, with those gifts and talents that only we can share, unburdened by any of our sad stories of inadequacy.
So fail forward fast.
And fear not the F word. It is the road to the business and the life you want.
Walt Hampton, J.D.
President & Chief Operating Officer
Book Yourself Solid® Worldwide