If you’re willing to accept failure and learn from it, if you’re willing to consider failure as a blessing in disguise and bounce back, you’ve got the potential of harnessing one of the most powerful success forces. – Joseph Sugarman

In 2002 I left a fairly successful consulting career to take over ownership of a coffeehouse in Philadelphia. I had plenty of personal reasons about why I thought this was a good idea, although I had no experience in the retail food industry. Long story short, a little under two very long, challenging, stressful years later, I had to sell the cafe and return to consulting.

Had I persisted longer would the shop been successful?  I doubt it. I believe I had persisted long enough (I know my wife definitely believed so.)  What it came down to was that this particular venture was a failure. A pretty significant one for me. At that moment I was not looking at it as an opportunity to learn as Mr. Sugarman above instructs. Honestly, I was looking to forget about it.

Surprisingly, one of my brothers provided the most insightful comments from the whole experience. He said, “Just think how much you wouldn’t have learned if you were successful.”

The truth is that when failure hits, it is tough. We all fear failure and many of our behaviors reflect that fear.  So much is written about learning from our failures and being persistent in the face of failure.  I agree. Life goes on. It took a bit for me, it still stings a little even today. I have been able to look back and gain learnings from my experience.   I think we all have that capacity.

We don’t need to always celebrate failure as some suggest.  When projects fail it sucks and we feel accountable. What we can do is create a blameless environment that allows for honest and open communication about what happened and what can we learn from it. That doesn’t only mean what will we do different next time, but also what knowledge was gained from the failure. Everyone knows the story of how Post-it notes were created. There is knowledge in failure. In that we all can gain resilience and a more persistent attitude.

[Note: This is the 6th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

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