Failure: The Competitive Advantage

Posted on 18. Jun, 2013 by in Blog, Lead From Within, Leadership, Leadership Development, Life Balance, Life Skills, Personal Development, Workplace

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 12.15.38 PMIn recent months I’ve talked at different times with two leaders, each facing the loss of his job because of a corporate merger or acquisition. Although their situations were the same, their responses could not have been more different.

One was having a terrible time, to the point that he had even considering killing himself.

The other was excitedly planning what to do next to create a new way to be successful.

It led me to wonder: What were the variables that led to such widely different responses?

The first leader—the one who was struggling—had up to this point lived a charmed life. A perfect childhood in a loving, stable home, the best schools, graduation from a top college followed by a great job obtained with his father’s assistance. He had married his college sweetheart and they had a beautiful family—adorable twins, a boy and girl—with a fantastic home and even a luxury vacation home.

The second leader came from a very different background. His parents had been divorced, and his childhood was often lonely. Money was scarce and he always had an after-school job. After graduation his only option for continuing his education was a city college, where he continued to work nights to put himself through. After graduation he got a good entry-level job and made his way quickly up the ladder through hard work and dedication, eventually becoming global leader of his business unit. He married a woman he had met at a soup kitchen, and they had two wonderful sons.

And there, in their stories, I saw the difference.

It was about experiencing struggle and challenge, and coping and learning from them.

Struggle, failure, pain, adversity—they are all our teachers.

 

Each time we take a risk and it fails we have another opportunity to begin again.

Each time we face a difficulty we can stand up and try again.

Each time we plan and fail and try again, we are building inner resources.

Failure gives us the competitive advantage, it opens the door unto everything we need to know.

 

 

And as far as I can see, the door into one’s own strength, including perhaps the most precious gift, of all, our own real self.

Lead From Within:  Heart-based leaders have a whole library of inner resources they can tap into and bounce back and move forward with success and strength.

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75 Responses to “Failure: The Competitive Advantage”

  1. Christy Johnson

    18. Jun, 2013

    I love your comparison here. Adversity does seem to build resilience in many people so it makes sense “failure” works in our favor at times. I guess the greater failure is quitting rather than persevering when thwarted. Thanks for this reminder!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Martina

    18. Jun, 2013

    Excellent points, Lolly.

    We have an opportunity to learn from every experience in our lives. If we make the time, we can see what went “wrong” in our failures, and prepare differently, and probably better for our next attempt.

    There is an old adage that says something like, the real failure is not in falling, but in not rising again.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Harry Edhouse

    18. Jun, 2013

    Failure is the stuff of adventure, – no failure, then eventually boring.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Alli Polin

    18. Jun, 2013

    Lolly – Their stories are in great contrast. The first leader, that has had the charmed life, is clearly struggling. One of the things I remind myself and others often is that “you may have failed but you are not a failure.” Resilience is learned through failure. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to learn and move forward with greater strength.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Matt Hunt

    18. Jun, 2013

    How incredibly sad that the person in your first story was willing to go to suicide to escape the reality of their first “failure.” I have been writing and speaking on this topic for some time and feel this is a big miss for recent generations. We have not experience (and learned from) struggle and failure to the same degree. This fact has become more apparent with the millennial generation. In the era of 7th place ribbons, no-score little league, and continual grade inflation where are kids going to learn how to fail. Here is a recent post on this topic.

    http://www.matthunt.co/failure-forums/gaming-a-refuge-where-kids-can-learn-how-to-fail-in-an-interview-with-game-producer-omar-abdelwahed/627

    Reply to this comment
  6. Samantha

    18. Jun, 2013

    Another wonderful post Lolly. I believe it was Edison who said, ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways it didn’t work.’

    In the moments when I feel overwhelmed by a sense of failure, I eventually make my way to noticing the courage that it took for me to risk in the first place. The willingness to take that next step even if I can’t see the whole path. To reach for what I may have wanted and needed, even if there was another voice inside saying ‘how DARE you want more then crumbs off the table in life’.

    And each time, I face those inner demons, and muster the courage that says Yes, I’m daring to reach for more.

    Thanks again for sharing Lolly.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      18. Jun, 2013

      Samantha,

      As you know, we have come to our time in our lives, where bruises are formed from failures within rather than accidents without

      Reply to this comment
  7. Wayne McEvilly

    18. Jun, 2013

    Lolly -
    I always expect the best from your posts, and have never been disappointed. I believe that since we live “in today’s world” brevity has become an increasingly precious virtue – you manage to pack a ton of significance into a teeny package –
    I often wonder how many issues would solve themselves if we just realized that the great good thing is quite simply being – that we are a success in that we are in being, in good standing, capable of enjoying, equipped with everything required to go forward or to sink, as we choose.
    “In today’s world” (which is pretty much the one I wake up in every day) good thinking is needed. You provide a healthy portion. Thanks. Yum.
    Wayne

    Reply to this comment
  8. Wayne McEvilly

    18. Jun, 2013

    Lolly -
    p.s.
    Great title too! We are not “socialized” to take the leap from “failure” to “competitive advantage” -so thanks for opening that door to those who might not have seen the situation in that particular light -
    Wayne

    Reply to this comment
  9. Panteli Tritchew

    18. Jun, 2013

    Great reminders about resilience and growth, Lolly. It’s interesting that the term “Hindsight is 20/20″ has come to carry a negative charge. Of course Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s a good thing, too; but only if we are open to learning and growing from our mistakes and failures. Have a wonderful day. Panteli

    Reply to this comment
  10. Lalita Raman

    18. Jun, 2013

    Lolly, you bring out some valid and relevant points here in terms of struggle, learning from failure and building strength through challenges that life throws at us.

    Fantastic Post.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      18. Jun, 2013

      Thanks so much Lalita, it is always a pleasure to see you here.

      struggle gives us an advantage in life. they prepare us for our challenges.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Chris Smeaton

    18. Jun, 2013

    I often use the term “fail forward” to ensure learning from our failures. Usually the greatest learning we experience comes not from our successes but our failures. Rebounding from failure is a critical life skill to be learned so that failure does not become a permanent condition!

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Life Lesson: We learn only from failure, we grow from failure, we succeed in the future because we have failed in the past.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      “Failure is an opportunity.
      If you blame someone else,
      there is no end to the blame.
      Therefore the Master
      fulfills her own obligations
      and corrects her own mistakes.
      She does what she needs to do
      and demands nothing of others.”
      ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

      Reply to this comment
  12. john paul

    18. Jun, 2013

    Sometimes people reach their breaking points. They may have handled failure and adversity constantly, for most of their lives. Then something happens and takes them over the edge. What takes them there is the lack of an ability to cope with the particular sets of challenges they face.

    Some are good at it and handle it most of their lives. Some have high levels of coping tools and skills. However, we all have our limits. Why? Because we are finite beings. When we reach our limits, whatever that may be, and there is no safety net the tragedy can often happen.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Danielle E. Aaronson

    18. Jun, 2013

    Lolly, I find your post interesting. In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl states, “[...] let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning.” Although I align with your thought that past failures help shape us for future failures, it in no way means that if we have not faced failures, a hard childhood, or a hard adult life that we would handle a failure with such a negative attitude.

    We all make conscious choices about our actions and reactions, and the goal is for us to continue to become more self-aware and gain the insight and understanding to align our values, behaviors, and purpose in every aspect of our lives- in failure and success.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Whos life is void of suffering?

      Who is not searching for meaning?

      Life is one painful lesson after another to show us that we can grow and learn from it.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      I know Victor Frankl’s book well, I keep it on my night stand… but it might not be that we have to have failures, or suffering… but we do have it…

      Reply to this comment
  14. Blair Glaser

    18. Jun, 2013

    This rich post was inspirational for me — having just failed and written about it in my latest post!
    From my work with people I too, have learned that all to often when things don’t work out: “sheltered leads to shattered”.
    It is very difficult for many people to differentiate between the feelings that a situation evokes and their projected, self-hating interpretation of the events. Feelings of discouragement and rejection are normal in the experience of being laid off, but the notion that your life is now worthless is not a feeling; it is a baseless conclusion.
    As you showed, failure and adversity give us the strength to distinguish between the feelings and the story. Thanks, Lolly!

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Life is just one big lesson after another and it is how we deal with it. Will either have us grow or stay stagnant

      The secret is to learn from failure and not repeat our mistakes.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      a thought: Maybe life is asking you to go to your inner most part of your heart and to believe in yourself and say… “I could succeed where others failed, and now I had the opportunity to test myself…”

      Reply to this comment
  15. Ben Odoi

    18. Jun, 2013

    It’s true that failure should rather help us to build our next line of action.

    Reply to this comment
  16. J Scott

    18. Jun, 2013

    When I think of failure I think of it to be a lesson learned. Meaning, the short coming I have experienced has given me insight on how to be better next time.

    The optimist and pollyanna side of me says, “I didn’t fail, I just learned what not to do.”

    Reply to this comment
  17. Jay

    18. Jun, 2013

    Nice post Lolly…Thank you, as always.

    The challenge comes when coaching someone who has “had it all” and has climbed quickly on the stairway to success. Some have not yet tasted failure or adversity, and it is hard to prepare them without actual experience.

    Jay

    Reply to this comment
  18. Sharon Corsaro

    18. Jun, 2013

    As soon as I was reading just the first bits of your first guy’s story, it was clear… no challenges, equaled for him, no *experience* with falling and getting back up again. Therefore, no experience with *true* empowerment in himself, or knowing *how* to stand back up again…

    What a powerful notion for parents to learn!! Recognize… kids need to experience their own stumbles, for THAT is where they experience the entire notion of being empowered, yes?! It IS the *getting back UP again* that exercises the muscle of our *core strength* while providing an experiential moment of *embodying* true power… When one experiences the feeling of *true power* the kind that comes from *inside* – by surpassing great adversity – that person has a strength that could not be taught to them, otherwise… and, they will know no limits… and THAT is powerful. Wow, eh?!! … Thank you for provoking my thinking… awesome message… so glad I dug back in my news stream, to see this post!!

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Sharon seeing you is always a pleasure.

      you grow gold where ever you go.

      struggle, pain, adversity, they are all our teachers. we must learn from them.
      and once we do we can move forward to the next level of consciousness.

      leading from the heart, lead from within is a discipline of actions
      that bring us towards our best self.

      a lifetime of detours gets us a life of beauty.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Failure is our greatest teacher and shame blinds us to her lessons

      Reply to this comment
  19. Beltrán Enrique Malavé

    18. Jun, 2013

    Absolutely great! I really enjoyed this post!

    Reply to this comment
  20. Simon Harvey

    18. Jun, 2013

    If you haven’t failed you haven’t lived.

    Love the post, love the subject. Failure is the STOP sign posted in front of no where. If you fear failure you will be going nowhere fast. Fear is a strong emotion that may still be hardwired into our brains, it can be overpowering and debilitating or it can be refreshingly inspiring. The kick that we sometimes need to jumpstart that passion and energy once again.

    I don’t belve we should just ignore fear or flee from failure. It is far better, like any other emotion to acknowledge it and process it.

    There is a point to it and you can gain great knowledge from it should you take the time to look within your mind and heart to seek the answers within.

    Fear is very personal, and it can even stop you from failing, and yes then stop the learning. it is something that we tend not to talk about as to are our failures. For sure both are something that we as a society have pinned as weak, or ‘Uncool’. But fear is just something that we carry about, and failure it just a kink in the hose. We can ignore it, be angry at something or someone, but we then miss all the opportunity to see within the failure and learn.

    Embrace it, learn about it, find out where the kink is and straighten it out so you can continue to grow.

    Thanks for the great post. Got to rush to the chat :)

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Simon,

      Always love to see your words of wisdom

      FAILURE IS THE STOP SIGN!

      Again you are correct when you say:

      Embrace it, learn about it, find out where the kink is and straighten it out so you can continue to grow.

      You are truly brilliant. Thanks Simon!

      Reply to this comment
  21. Dan

    18. Jun, 2013

    Beautifully said, Lolly. Often it seems like the biggest deterrent to appreciating failure’s gifts is the deep sense of shame or embarrassment that goes with it. And there’s some truth that when we fail, we may have to experience some very uncomfortable moments. I remember telling someone years ago that I was getting a divorce. The person cracked up — “You! The ‘undiscussables guy’! You couldn’t make it work! That’s hilarious!” he said. In the moment I was really taken aback, hurt, shamed. I hope I’m not projecting when I say I think he even enjoyed the moment. It was awful.

    And yet, even there, a moment of healing began to penetrate. I saw that I was killing myself with embarrassment, instead of finding and expressing the truth, which had nothing to do with being ashamed or embarrassed at all. After that, I was better able to stand aside from the fear that I might be hurt again by sharing my realities with others. After that, the fear of being shamed or embarrassed began to recede and I was actually better able to accept what was happening and begin to learn. I hadn’t realized how much fear had been keeping me stuck. Having the shame vividly actualized in that way gave me an entirely different kind of courage.

    I regard such things as miracles. Every genuine failure seems to be attended by them.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Dan,

      Knowing you. learning from you, reading your wisdom week after week.
      You are the miracle in my life.

      …..and I love your last sentiment and I want to keep that close to my heart.

      MIRACLES: Every genuine failure seems to be attended by them.

      If we can keep that focus – it will save us a lot of heart ache.

      thanks for sharing your IN-sight!

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time with a little bit more wisdom.

      Reply to this comment
  22. Susan Henson

    19. Jun, 2013

    Lolly, great post. While I agree with your view, it’s also true that not everyone from an “easy” background has a hard time processing later failure and vice versa. For example, people of a single family with the same environment growing up can deal (or not deal) with a failure or loss in vastly different ways. Every person is unique in how s/he deals with life’s challenges. What does seem to be a constant theme for those who grow beyond life challenges is their acceptance of what’s happened and a conscious choice to learn from the experience, coupled with doing the work to make that happen. It’s hard to move past our own self judgments toward healing if we’re still stuck in disbelief over what’s happened.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      This post is not a be all or end all. It just so happened with two of my clients —this was the story. It is not written in stone if you have an easy life you will fail more. but speaking to that point i have seen it in my clients where this is the case more than once.
      BUT its not every time.

      THE TRUTH about failing is getting out of you mind and into your heart.

      Your heart will lead you where you need to go ….and it does not matter what background you come from.

      Reply to this comment
  23. Peg Rowe

    19. Jun, 2013

    Lolly, an insightful, thought-provoking post, as usual. Experiencing and learning from adversity builds resilience. I think of resilience as “bounce back-ability”. Embracing adversity and looking for the lessons taps into resilience and shortens the space between the perceived failure and possibility.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      You are correct Peg when you say:
      Experiencing and learning from adversity builds resilience

      It is so true.
      thanks for sharing.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Resilience is not a commodity you are born with, waiting silently on tap.

      It is self-manufactured painstakingly over time by working through your problems and never giving up, especially in the face of struggle and failure

      Reply to this comment
  24. dawoodchishti

    19. Jun, 2013

    ‘Reignite your passion and keep on climbing’. Beauty of your post makes the subject so absorbing that it develops intuitive bond. You spontaneously feel a re-energised soul.

    Reply to this comment
  25. Yash

    19. Jun, 2013

    Excellent Post – thought provoking. Loved reading it. Thanks Lolly :)

    Reply to this comment
  26. dawoodchishti

    19. Jun, 2013

    ‘Reignite your passion and keep on climbing’. Beauty of your post makes the subject so absorbing that it develops intuitive bond. You spontaneously feel a re-energised soul.
    Lolly,
    B
    Z.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Muralidharan Jayaram

    21. Jun, 2013

    This is a great and inspiring article. I always envy people who have been given everything on a platter.

    I like this new perspective and with this outlook, I will take more risks being not afraid of failure. Thank you for this wonderful article.

    Muralidharan Jayaram

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Mauralidharan

      never be jealous of another, you never know what life has in store for them.
      Concentrate on who you are, what you stand for, and how you can be the best you are meant to be.

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. Jun, 2013

      Failure isn’t bad if it doesn’t attack the heart. Success is all right if it doesn’t go to the head.

      Reply to this comment
  28. Carthage

    21. Jun, 2013

    Failure is one of the most natural steps on the path to success and happiness. It provides an amazing opportunity to gain fresh insights which can implemented to improve future experiences. We shouldn’t fear failure, we should embrace it.

    Reply to this comment
  29. dawoodchishti

    21. Jun, 2013

    JOY is hidden in failure; Failure betters YOU.

    Reply to this comment
  30. Garren Fagaragan

    23. Jun, 2013

    mahalo Lolly…

    I love entrepreneurs…because we Live and Die
    by our own decisions.

    Failures…mishaps…like a car accident I
    recently recovered from…offers us opportunities
    to extract the lesson(s) from a situation(s)…and apply them…

    so that we can become better(previous comment)…
    not bitter.

    Walt Disney said it clearly…

    There is no education like adversity.

    thanks again Lolly…

    rock steady…

    Reply to this comment
  31. Kirin Kopalan

    24. Jun, 2013

    Many thanks. Love this article. I am into invention,new product design and development. Each time something does not work it is a feed back. It is part of the design process. It is not failure. Important is to learn. In fact I will not hire a new design manager who fail enough and learn from those and continue to progress.

    Reply to this comment
  32. Tash

    26. Jun, 2013

    Thanks Lolly, I love this! this is exactly my challenge at present. I guess Im trying to figure out what this lesson is so I can learn, grow and move on.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      27. Jun, 2013

      Be silent. Do not try to figure it all out.
      Life does not work in a linear fashion.
      Lets things come and let things go.

      And watch what you reap.

      Reply to this comment
  33. Paul Liu

    02. Jul, 2013

    Failure is not a bad thing, but did we learn something from this precious experience?
    There is a old chinese saying “failure is the mother of success”

    Reply to this comment
  34. Craig

    15. Jul, 2013

    Great points. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Reply to this comment
  35. Shantanu Saran

    29. Jun, 2014

    “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed”. Nature itself has created life with two extremities – life & death, day & night, good & bad………success and failure. Failure is learning, experience and getting to know what it takes to succeed, that’s where the genesis of success lies.

    Reply to this comment

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