I read a lot of personal and professional development material. One thing that I frequently see within that material that drives me absolutely crazy is how failure is perceived. It’s gotten to the point where it’s seen as a right of passage in a person’s career arc. The more failure we experience, the more awesome we become in the eyes of our peers. Well, I’m sorry; I don’t know where all these feel-good types have worked, but everywhere I’ve ever been, failure is failure, and it’s a bad thing. It can be expensive, both in terms of actual money and opportunity cost. It can cause people to lose their jobs. It can cause entire companies to go under. No one should feel good about failing.
Without a doubt, we all need to learn from our mistakes, big or small, and it’s a poor leader that gets in your face for every minor transgression. However, we shouldn’t be deluding ourselves into thinking that it’s okay to mess up on a frequent basis so long as we learn something in return.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not a hard-ass (not on purpose anyway), but I do strongly believe that we should all hold ourselves accountable for our results. We do this by striving for success, as well as being hard on ourselves if we ultimately miss the target. The most positive thing that we can do for ourselves is to make a strong effort to learn as much as possible about how to succeed at what we are attempting to do BEFORE we attempt to do it. Yeah, yeah, I hear you. “Who’s got the time?” Well, for the sake of your career, you’d better find the time somewhere because the people that fail too often are a liability to their company, and most companies are aggressively trying to minimize their liabilities (if you know what I mean).
So, what can we do? It turns out that there are so many people out there that have already made the mistakes that we are seeking to avoid, and lots of those people have generously shared their hard-earned insights through books or blogs so that the rest of us don’t have to make those mistakes ourselves. Take the time to research the right way to do something; learn what there is to learn in advance. The time that we spend on continued learning is an investment in ourselves and our careers. Successful people do this. You do want to be successful don’t you?
Obviously, this rant isn’t about the real risk-takers (innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.) out there; the ones that are blazing new trails for others to follow. Although those folks still shouldn’t feel good about failing, they do get a bit of a pass since they don’t have the opportunity to just search the web for a “How-To” or “Best Practices” article. For the rest of us however, those types of resources do exist and there aren’t any good reasons not to take advantage of them.
For the sake of full disclosure, yes, I’ve failed before, and yes, I’ve always attempted to learn what I could from those failures. However, you won’t ever catch me feeling good about it.
“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” – Jim Rohn
Do you agree, or do you just think I’m being a hard-ass? Let me know where YOU stand on this.