The Power Of Failure

The other day, I delivered a program that just wasn’t my best.  It wasn’t due to a lack of preparation or a lack of effort, but I was faced with obstacles with every move I made. I won’t bore you with the details, but my favorite obstacle was leaving a breakout room, and accidently being locked out of my entire meeting.  Suffice it to say, it was a clunker.

There were so many unexpected problems, I found myself apologizing often, and excessively.  I was supposed to teach this audience how to sell.  I was supposed to be the pro. I was supposed to be as close to perfect as I could possibly be.  Instead, I felt like I failed them and myself, and I carried the emotions of a defeated warrior.  In my mind, the only thing I was teaching this audience was how to fail.

And that’s when my audience stepped up and began teaching me a few things.  It started when various comments in the chat room began to appear; they were trying to cheer me up. I was bound and determined to keep reminding my audience how disappointed I was.  We can add that little move to the long list of amateur mistakes I was making, because last time I looked, making an audience feel sorry for you can seriously demotivate an audience.  That’s when the conversation turned in a beautiful way.

An unmuted participant’s voice entered the conversation saying, “Rob, it’s really not necessary to keep apologizing for these issues; we deal with disappointment every day.  Could we spend a moment and talk about how you cope with failure?”  Failure?  I thought we were talking about selling!  But it was a legitimate question, and particularly at that moment, it deserved an honest answer… and so, that’s where the conversation pivoted.  I thought to myself, “How do I deal with failure?”

I reminded them (and me,) that stuff happens.  It happens to everyone, and not if, but when, it does, it presents a moment to shine.  Failure may be an unwelcome guest, but it can’t be feared; it must be faced with courage, and a resolve to fight harder.

I reminded them, (and me,) that whenever we do something that involves risk, we are more vulnerable to the possibility of failure. Rather than hide from it, we need to plan for it. The more contingency plans we have in place, the quicker we can pivot off a failure, and plow forward.

I reminded them, (and me,) that wisdom comes from failure.  We all dream of a life without failure, but honestly, how realistic is that?  What’s more, how fun would that be?  We absolutely learn volumes more from failure than we do from success.  How could we not?  The lessons are clearer and longer lasting, and those failures contribute to our ability to acquire true wisdom.

So many people, (including me,) are so busy trying to impress people with the perfection of our given tasks that we forget that the best way to impress people is far simpler than that.  We need to show people we are human.  We need to show people we are humble.  We need to show people that we bleed just like they do.

I was supposed to be teaching an audience the power of selling and instead, I was teaching them the power of failure.  It seemed the attendees apparently enjoyed the session more than I did.  I received multiple comments about how much they liked the information on selling, but many more comments saying they loved the information on failure.  The moral of that moment is tailor made for one of my favorite quotes from Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote:

~ The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek. ~

Related: Making Your Mind Smile