by Anthony Russo
Overriding Failure by Embracing It
For far too long “Failure” has been a word of taboo in life and business. We were raised and told to be perfect, and anything short of perfection was a disappointment and failure. What if I told you that philosophical mentality has created a weaker, confused, and more depressed workforce and general population.
We have set unrealistic expectations for our children, our young adults, our workers and our management. Perfection is temporary and fleeting at best, so why do we place all of our emphasis on this almost mythical golden goose? Exactly, we shouldn’t. There is no growth in perfection and it’s an unrealistic goal. Failing, however, means you are pushing the boundaries of what is possible to you, and opening up room for higher levels of success.
This philosophy works in business, it works in the gym and it works in relationships. The struggle that comes from failure creates the opportunity for greatness. Choosing what is hard in the short term is what causes relief in the long term.
So now that the ra-ra portion of this post is over, let’s get to the nuts and bolts.
Failure is inevitable. As soon as we get over the shock that we are human and imperfect, the sooner we can progress in our career and life. I’ve had a million-plus revenue experiential marketing staffing agency, driven fancy cars, enjoyed travel and fine foods… and for those that caught me in that moment, success might be all people see. You might think, well life is easy for him, and how can he have any idea what failure is like? Well, much like the well-known iceberg/success analogy, you have to look deeper to see what’s below the surface. I had two enormous business failures that led up to that successful business I’m referring to. Each mistake and lesson learned from those two “failures” gave me the building blocks for the success of the third business. So, the debt, the stress, the worry, the almost-bankruptcy you don’t see, you just see the tip of the iceberg.
In the words of Lavar Burton, and yes, I know I’m dating myself now with the Reading Rainbow reference; “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Every major success I have researched has been the product of overcoming failure. Bill Gates’ first “data making machine,” didn’t work when he showed it off. Oprah Winfrey was fired for being “not fit for TV,” and Henry Ford’s first automotive company ran out of money. And I’m sure you heard this one before, but Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity team on the first try…so what’s your excuse?
So, when you and I fail, what do we do? First off, identify the failure, and I challenge us to buck off the typical motivational phrase that tells you to brush yourself off and get up again. It’s an incomplete notion, and it’s setting us up for continued failures that can be avoided. Just because I say failure is a good thing, doesn’t mean that repeated similar failures are. Look at it like this, if you get knocked down from a punch and you get up and dust yourself off and go right back and get hit the same way again doesn’t make you any further ahead than you were before. Instead I challenge you to analyze what hit you and why you got knocked down to avoid the same mistakes. You know… like learn to duck or block, and better yet counter punch.
So now that you’ve identified the failure, and you know the causes, think about how it can be fixed or salvaged. If it can’t be fixed, then figure out the exact mistake that caused the failure and set up your future plan to make sure a similar mistake doesn’t happen again.
You’re training a new hire and you spend three months just to find out they are going to take a similar position with a different company for better money with all of your training. This is a huge waste of resources and probably causes some animosity and anger in your gut. If you can look back and realize there were signs much earlier in the process where he or she was being too opportunistic and disloyal, know next time to cut the cord earlier so you don’t get burned. Maybe it’s a simple paperwork and contract change where a new hire has a longer probationary period to make it harder to leave after receiving all that value from you.
All that matters at the end of a failure is that you are better equipped to handle or prevent similar situations in the future. I call this a “post-mortem analyzation,” and it allows you to connect with potential hires or clients that didn’t work out in that instance whilst asking basic questions to learn from the experience. Not only does this help with new examples in the future, but sometimes this attention and care to detail will help you get a client back. It’s amazing the power of follow-up when done in a kind and friendly way.
Now that you know why and how you failed how do you respond?
Some actionable items I like to give when responding to failure begin with one major first step. DO NOT SULK IN FAILURE. The more time you spend sulking the more time that is wasted. We are human and have emotions that cause us to take losses and disappointment hard, however the quicker the turnaround the better. The only regrets I have in business as I look back is the amount of time it took, on occasion, to get my mindset turned back around.
So now that you’re no longer crying in the corner… try and make sure the necessary changes are in place and then take action in the new direction. At the end of the day, remember you are human, mistakes are inevitable and that failing and being a failure are two very different things.
So, my words of advice that I encourage everyone to think through… Don’t be afraid of failure––embrace it, learn from it and even enjoy it because you are stronger, wiser, and better- prepared than you were before that failure. Push the boundaries of your job title, of your relationships and your career. Change that negative connotation of failure and throw away that negativity. View the failures as steppingstones that get you across a huge body of water without falling in.
Now with all that positivity in failure I heed a warning to those afraid to push the boundaries and afraid to fail. What happens if you don’t push the envelope, change things up, and strive to fail? Well, then you become Blockbuster…and you eventually fail. Was that blunt enough?
Anthony Russo is the Founder of #BeTheChange LLC, a social movement to inspire people to create action and positivity. He is also a sought-after expert and speaker on Failure with his keynote, “Doubling Down for Success by Overcoming Failure.” Previously, he was the Owner and Managing Director of Identity Marketing USA LLC, a nationwide promotional staffing agency. Anthony is also a published author of articles in several major publications including Inc.com and Forbes.com. His new book, The Art of Doubling Down, will be released Spring 2020.