In case you missed it – last week was the most exciting finish to an NCAA Basketball Tournament – ever!
As the final second literally ticked away, Villanova made the winning basket. Depending on who you were cheering for, you either screamed with delight or looked shocked and dismayed. What a game!
As always – I find there are some great lessons for all of us in these history-making events. For me – that lesson was about failure.
If you look at the final score – you could say the North Carolina men’s basketball team “Failed.” In fact, watching the tearful and heartbroken reaction of players and fans alike – you may wonder why people even try to win if failure hurts that bad!
Interestingly, I read an article that said Michael Jordan (the most famous UNC alum) asked to be the first to speak with the players in the locker room. According to the article, his message was straightforward and to the point:
“You can’t be a great winner without having to experience
struggles and losses and [learn] how to use this as fuel. “
Wow – impressive wisdom from the greatest player of all time.
While none of my readers are star college athletes, I believe this message still applies to life and work. The leaders I coach all have their share of scars, bruises and stories about failure. In fact, they have new ones all the time. The key to success is not to avoid failing, but WHEN you fail (not if), turn it into fuel. If you can’t do that – failure becomes your Kryptonite. If that happens, you seek to avoid it at all costs. That’s no way to live and you surely won’t grow.
So how do you turn Failure into Fuel?:
Try these strategies……
- Adjust your Attitude – Your attitude largely impacts how you experience failure. Are you a half-empty or half-full person? Half-empty people tend to find the dark side; they are good at generalizing one failure into their broader life. They accumulate failure as if it’s expected. If you are half-full – you take an optimistic attitude. You see the upside of the defeat; you might even focus on that which you learned/gained.
- Increase the Frequency of your Failures – The more you experience something, the more natural it feels. If you never take risks (thereby never fail) – falling short of your goal feels much more intense and earthshaking. Conversely, if risk and pushing your comfort zone are regular practices, you essentially can habituate to failure. While it still stings and disappoints – it’s not as debilitating.
- De-Personalize the Failure – How do you view it? Did you see that you ‘failed’ at some effort or do you see yourself as the failure? Without the appropriate emotional boundaries, failure can be too personal. You fail to see the task/effort as what went wrong. Instead, you see yourself as the loser. That is dangerous. Develop the boundaries to keep failure from impacting your self-worth and self-identity.
- Change the Orientation – Orientation changes your vantage point. If you look at a failure the moment it occurs, it feels big. If you look at it within the context of a month – it is smaller. If you look at it from the perspective of all that occurs in a year – it seems manageable. Think back to your teenage years – remember that boy/girl that broke up with you? It was devastating right? The world was over – you won’t ever love agin. Still feel that trauma and pain? I doubt it. In fact, you probably smile when you think back. Time does heal wounds – remember to broaden the lens through which you view it.
- Keep it in Perspective – “It’s all relative.” What a powerful statement. Whenever you experience something “bad” – just take a look around. Better yet – watch the nightly news. A late shipment, lost proposal or missed promotion pales in comparison to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Keep it real and stay grounded. There is always someone who has it much worse.
If you intend to continue to grow and experience life; if you plan on pushing your career to higher or broader contributions – you will fail in some way, shape and form. That’s okay. In fact it is essential.
Therefore start to practice all of these strategies. Learn to turn failure into fuel and see what you can do!