Most of us treat failure as something to be avoided. We do all we can to succeed in whatever we have started, and to avoid getting involved in any projects that might expose us to failure.
One of my bedside books at the moment is The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence by Tom Peters. He presents a Theory of Failure in chapter 19 which is a real challenge to people of a more cautious nature like myself.
Here is my summary: To succeed in any area, you have to try a lot of stuff – quickly. If you try lots of stuff in a hurry, you will make lots of mistakes – always. Hence, making mistakes often is a very good sign of progress; perhaps the only sure sign. So moving forward is not about just tolerating mistakes, it’s about being open to them, learning from them, maximising them, celebrating them, even encouraging them.
He quotes Phil Daniels:
Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.
And at the end of the chapter he has his own list of favourite ‘failure’ quotations:
- “Fail. Forward. Fast.” (High-tech exec)
- “Fail faster. Succeed sooner.” (David Kelly, founder IDEO)
- “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
- “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” (Winston Churchill)
- “Whoever makes the most mistakes wins.” (Book by Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes)
- “If people…tell me they skied all day and never fell down, I tell them to try a different mountain.” (Michael Bloomberg)
- “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan)
Maybe this is all a bit too ‘Management-Guru-Self-Help-Book’ for you – but I found it very thought-provoking!