You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Failure is not an option.”
Whether it’s on the movie screen, sporting pitch or latest meme, the phrase is essentially ubiquitous. But as is the case with many of these kinds of sayings, we often speak them without thinking about their meaning. It’s as if time, overuse and universality have numbed us to their meaning.
But that is, in part, what our blog is for and, in a bigger sense, what our team of keynote speakers is for – to shake us from our intellectual slumber and challenge us to view things anew.
Failure: What If It Is an Option?
In principle, “Failure is not an option” sounds like a great buzz phrase. It implies excellence, drive and a complete dedication to seeing a project or mission through to the end with flawless execution. As appealing as it may seem, “Failure is not an option” is not a reality for most of us.
Even some of the world’s greatest leaders in business and politics have suffered massive failures. And what did they learn after their shortcoming? That failure is inevitable, but how we respond to failure is entirely within our realm of choice.
While failure isn’t a comforting concept, we can find solace in the fact that our response to it falls under our control.
Even the Greats Have Failed, and Here’s What They Learned
We gathered up some wisdom from three different entrepreneurs and writers to help you see failure the right way.
Understand the Data Behind Your Mistakes
Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, acknowledged that failures will happen and they’ll cost startups, in particular, a lot of time and money. But the inevitability of failure doesn’t mean you have to fail the same way twice.
For startup owners, their “gut feeling” is an essential trait for success. As natural innovators and idea people, they go with their instinct. Many times, that instinct is right.
But when it comes to planning a project, projecting costs and predicting outcomes, it’s best to work with data, Kim said. Objectivity can save you from huge mistakes.
“The key to success therefore is in trying to fail slightly less often by using more data rather than gut feel in the project planning phases, and not let projects that fail to meet their success criteria linger around for too long,” he said in a 2014 Huffington Post article.
Accept that It’s Going to Happen
Business history is replete with stories of entrepreneurs who failed spectacularly before they met their ultimate success.
Take the story of Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky. He started several companies in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. His ventures failed, ultimately leading him to the verge of bankruptcy in 2001.
Undeterred, he launched another company. With that success under his belt, he took the momentum and eventually started Groupon.
Here’s what he said in a 2013 article for Entrepreneur:
"The great ones treat failure as a necessary part of their journey. It's not win or lose. It's always win or learn."
Failure Should Lead to Learning, Not Despair and Dejection
It can be really tough to stomach a true failure. Take SpaceX founder Elon Musk, for example. His company suffered an embarrassing setback when one of their rockets exploded into thousands of pieces when they tried to land it on a ship this past January.
But here’s the worst part … it happened four times before they became the first company in history to land a rocket on a ship (they already landed a rocket back on solid ground).
After four failures ($331 million AUD), SpaceX succeeded.
This story reminds us of a Lifehacker article about the importance of accepting failure not as a final word, but as a tutor to sharpen us and make us smarter.
Contributor Djordje Todorovic wrote, “Learning from your mistakes means finding what is worth salvaging from your unfortunate experience, realizing what went wrong and finding a way to avert it in the future.”
The ones who find success don’t discover accidentally, he wrote. They approach it through a myriad of past failures that have sharpened their vision.
“Smart people use this input to work on themselves, and change the things they have the power to change,” Todorovic wrote.
Know Your Failures and Know How to Learn From Them
One of the things we pride ourselves in is our mission to find keynote speakers who have the life experience to back up the things they say from the stage.
In many cases, that life experience includes plenty of failures. They’ve taken the risks and seen those endeavours crumble. They learned from the mistakes and became a better person.
Take a look at our talented team of keynote speakers and find the one who speaks most clearly to your client or company’s situation. Then, contact us to start the process of organizing an amazing event.