Whether we like it or not, it is an inconvenient truth that most people learn more from failure than they ever do from success. Furthermore, I feel that this is particularly true within the business community, where it is far more commonplace to eulogise about personal success than openly admit to moments when one’s judgement has fallen short. In fact, the only occasion where I can recall well-known entrepreneurs or CEOs admitting to past failures in the media has nearly always been in the context of discussions about their subsequent success!
So, why is this? Well, it is hard to not conclude that vanity plays a strong part in our reticence to be honest and open, as well as our own human need to be “accepted” by our colleagues and peers. But, I believe, that the most potent reason is simply “fear”, as in the words of an old ex employer of mine “nobody likes a loser”.
To be clear, I can understand my ex-employers thinking when confronted with recidivism – those who continue to make the same mistakes time over, never learning or progressing forward – but for the rest of us mistakes are an essential part of learning and maturing. You see, it is not failure in itself that should define you as a business person or a manager but the way that you respond to it and, perhaps more pertinently, what you learn from it.
Incidentally, the same could be said of success, as on a few notable occasions I have sadly witnessed the self-destruction of friends and colleagues who have allowed themselves to lose all perspective over their lives when they enjoyed a marked improvement in their personal fortunes. It is sad to be a witness to this scenario, as in almost every case these individuals – usually men in my personal experience for some reason – had worked extremely hard for all their working lives just to enjoy this very moment.
So, whether your business is on the cusp of great success or you are currently having to navigate your way through corporate hardship – and I have personally experienced both – I will leave you with the words of the now veteran actor Clint Eastwood in his seminal role as “Dirty Harry” in the film of the same name, “A man has got to know his limitations.” As it is only by understanding your limitations and learning something from past failure that you learn to grow and improve as a manager/owner of a business and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy your success.
For more information, call Peter Nicholls on 0333 9398010 or go to www.ideologyconsulting.co.uk