Listen to this post
Failure has been defined as the path of least persistence.
Success, then, will always be the path of most resistance.
There will always be pain. There will always be fear. There will always be obstacles and naysayers.
And there will always, always, always be hope.
The story of Lincoln
Many of us know the general story of Abraham Lincoln, the poster child for persistence. He had nearly everything go against him and yet, by all accounts, he left a nearly unmatched legacy.
Listen to this post
Yikes! I have the power to make someone cry.
That realization came to me on a long walk with a good friend and colleague of mine. We were discussing our business and he told me the story of how earlier in the week something he said to a team member made her cry. That made him realize the magnitude of his position as CEO. He was suddenly aware that he had great power and began to wield that power more carefully.
One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to be oblivious to how he/she makes a team member feel.
Let me restate that: One of the biggest mistakes I made as a leader was to be completely oblivious to how my team members felt.
I was 28 at the time my friend told me his story and the world, I thought, still revolved around me, so I pocketed that little nugget and moved on with life. Thankfully I still remember that lesson.
Around that time I had just about perfected the art of making team members cry. The sad thing is that I was completely oblivious to it. Sure, I knew that I sucked as a leader, but I had no concept of the impact I was having on their lives and their emotions.
Failure and success are not in two different directions.
They are not two divergant paths on the road of life.
And they are most certainly not mutually exclusive.
Do an image search for “failure and success” on any image site and inevitably you will see an image that looks like this:
Talk about the road less traveled. The only people who purposefully take the left road are either sadistic or have awful GPS systems.
If life were like this sign, the left side could remain unsalted during a snowstorm. No one chooses that road.
Our greatest lessons come from studying our own history.
One year ago today, I launched this blog for exactly that reason. My life, my failures, my successes, my heartaches and my triumphs are all a part of my learning. And I get to share them all with you.
I’ve since learned that my declaration that “I am a failure,” made in that maiden post was wrong. I am not, nor will I ever be a failure. But my life is full of failings. And the great thing about present failure is that it leads to future success.
There are two critical components to failing well.
First, it can’t be fatal.
Second, you must learn from it.
If you follow these two guidelines, future failures will rock your world in positive ways.
There is only one type of failure that you should make every effort to avoid: fatal failure.
Of course, this literally includes life and death, but it also applies to anything that could kill your dream, your business, or tear apart relationships.
So you’ve been knocked down…now what?
In golf, as in life, you will suffer defeat. There will be times when you choke, succumb to pressure, or just lose it in the furnace that is a stressful and important situation.
At almost every major golf tournament each year, someone “blows it.” Someone who has never won a major championship before (there are four each year), leads with 18 holes to go. Or perhaps even only three or four holes. And they “find a way to lose.”
Have you ever been so exhausted that you just gave up on a goal or dream?
If you have, you don’t look back on that time with fondness, do you?
That’s because you know deep down inside that the moment when the exhaustion was at its peak, your goal or dream was within reach. When you let the fatigue become an excuse to give up, you give in to the enemy of your dreams. Call it Resistance. Call it the devil. Call it fear. Whatever it is, when you give in to fatigue, you give up on greatness.
Like a Child
I wrote about this before in a post entitled Childlike Persistence. Young children don’t know how to give up. It’s not in us from birth. If it were, we would never walk, because learning to walk is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. We fail at it thousands of times before we succeed.
As an adult, how many times do you allow yourself to fail thousands of times before you succeed?
You know the story of Thomas Edison…he failed thousands of times before finally inventing the light bulb. It’s a cute story, but do you apply it to your life?
“I am a failure.”
With those words, I launched this blog more than seven months ago.
But I was wrong. I meant well, but my words were poorly chosen.
If you have ever listened to Zig Ziglar, you have probably heard him say that “failure is an event, not a person.” I certainly had.
So why did I write those words? Why did I declare that “I am a failure?” Probably for effect more than anything. But that doesn’t make them right.
Can you imagine anyone saying:
“I am cancer.”
“I am the flu.”
“I am a bad haircut.”
“I am a fan of the Backstreet Boys.”
Of course not. These are all events, not persons. They are phases of life that we pass through. They do not identify us.
“My business is failing.”
With a look of resignation and defeat, Tom uttered those pitiful words to me in early spring.
The future is undetermined. If you talk about your future negatively, you prophesy your own downfall.
(Click to Tweet)
By summer, it had become a reality. His business had failed. He was down to his last few dollars and looking for work.
According to him, it had “been failing” for two years, since the economy made a turn for the worse.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tom was speaking prophetic words. He was speaking future events into current reality.
Saying “my business is failing” is, in its essence, a prediction of future events. It is no different from saying, “I am going to eat.” That is a predictor of future behavior and activity. Hours later I “will have eaten.”
To suggest “my business is failing” is to declare that at some point in the future it “will have failed.”
“My marriage is failing” is no different than saying “I’m going to be divorced.”
“My child is failing math” tells me that the end result will have been an “F” in math.
If Tom were to tell me now what he told me then, I would respond much differently than I did then. Here is how the conversation might go today:
Tom: My business is failing.
Continue Reading and Comment
In my inaugural post, I wrote a sentence that I almost didn’t include:
“I have held trophies and awards with the same hands that have been handcuffed.”
Here is the story behind that statement and what I learned from it.
I’ve never worn an orange jumpsuit or actually spent a night in jail, but it wasn’t a metaphor.
When I was 25, a grand jury indicted me on seven counts of perjury. (Wow, that was almost as fun to write as it was to go through.)
I ran for the local Board of Education at the age of 23. In doing so, I was required to file regular campaign finance reports. I falsified seven of the reports due to poor record keeping.
Continue Reading and Comment