I’m comfortable sharing my failures. I may not be perfect at sharing my failures but when it’s my turn at bat here I’m comfortable in the batter's box.
Practice makes perfect. I have had a lot of practice failing. I have failed at everything I’ve ever tried in every area of life. Some grand and awesome failures. None of them stopped me permanently. Some required long periods of reassessment.
But I learned. Took another at-bat. And added another strike or two to play with when it was my turn at-bat to share my stories.
Sometimes the failures came around behind me when I least expected it. Like a letter lost in the mail only to find me over here.
- Postman: Special delivery for a Mr. Zane Safrit.
- Me: Whew-w-w-w! This package is big and heavy. Wonder who loves me enough to send such a big package? And special delivery, too?
- Me: Oh, it's from Mr. Failure. And here I was thinking I was doing so well.
Failure never forgets to deliver the daily lesson plan even if that plan is last year’s lesson plan. Or the year before. Or who knows. It is always delivered.
That is good. Why? Failure always includes a lesson plan. Trust me on this one. I'm an expert in failure. I'm not alone as an expert. But I qualify as an expert.In answer to that question in the title...YES. Failure may be my greatest strength.
Some readers may chuckle at this. Some detractors may now thinkYeah. You sure are sporty. ‘bout time you admitted it, too...
I once shared my failures and snafus, gaffes and goofs, as cocktail party fodder. For me the stories were so absurdly funny, filled with the details of a veritable perfect storm...of little moments melding together to create the failure.
I shared these tales almost compulsively.
At the start it was...cathartic. It helped me own the lesson learned.
That helped me see the benefits of failing so awesomely, so regularly. The key benefit here was...perspective.
- Ok. Well, that was...different/awkward/painful...but what’s the worst that happened?
- Answer: A bruised and battered ego and money lost.
The ego heals. A little man-cave time...some self-assessment and like a broken bone that’s healed stronger for the stress endured, we come out stronger.
The money part...I consider that almost like a school loan. I bought a learning experience. The ROI, the degree, that's earned comes in two parts:
- Intangible. That would be the knowledge gained (what could have helped avoid it, what was inevitable, maybe I was right but right with the wrong people) along with the increased self-confidence and lack of fear.
- Tangible. The tangible ROI is when that all the intangibles are applied infuture business opportunities.
We can quibble on theology and metaphysics for what constitutes the universal elements we all share as humans. (We can... doesn’t mean we have to.) But one element we all share is failure. ( Again, let’s not digress into original sin, karma, purificatory rites. ) We all fail. Throughout our lives. ( Those of you who claim exemption from this need to expand your network to include emotionally healthy adults who care enough to confront you. )
We all keep failing until we stop. We all keep failing until we learn.
But the operative words are we and failing.I always hoped others would share their stories of failure with me and the group. Everyone would benefit. Most chose to hide their stories.
So, what is there to hide? Yes, discretion is the better part of valor. Discretion in sharing details of our failures is often the better part of accepting and embracing our failures to together. (Seriously, dude. I’m a visual guy and I didn’t need to hear that part of the story.)
Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, talked about the Beauty of Dirty Laundry. Sharing our failures. She talked about a presentation by Morten Lund, a long-time entrepreneur who had, among other things, made good money investing in Skype.
As he launched into his presentation, he said: “I have founded over 88 startups. And at the moment, I am bankrupt.”I see many people in that audience squirming. AWKWARD! Awkward moment. They are not sure why either. Is it the baring of his soul (or pocketbook) or the baring of their soul to themselves as they hear his story.
I squirmed when I read it. I wondered why I hadn’t done more.
And you’re wondering what’s my point or even if I have one? I do have a point or two. I hope they will prove worth your time.
We're all experts in failing. We’re all failures. ( We’re all successes too.) Those we identify as ‘successes’, separate from ourselves, are those who have more failures.
- Like Mr. Lund, an investor/entrepreneur with 88 startups and he’s broke.
- Like Michael Jordan who admits to missing game-winning shots 26 times, losing over 300 times and missing thousands of shots. Yet, he’s remembered for, 1 NCAA Championship, 6 NBA Championships and 3 game-winning shots:
- ’82 NCAA championship against Georgetown
- Against Cleveland Cavs/Craig Ehlo, 1989 NBA First Round.
- Against Utah/Bryon Russell, Game 6 of the NBA Finals, 1998. That brought another title. (No, he didn’t push off against Bryon. Yeah. I like basketball.)
- Or Thomas Edison, who by his own admission was not a failure. He just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Ok. You may think at this point: That’s all great. Another blog post about failing and persevering. Standard quotes from Mike and Edison.
Here’s what’s in it for you, why you should care and why you should believe.
We all have to be entrepreneurs now. An anonymous corporation has no interest in our fate. We know that. It is only a matter of time for those in denial. We all have to take ownership of our destinies. Our economy and our communities need the jobs that come from entrepreneurs. There are great opportunities for entrepreneurs in these turbulent times. Some of us will walk towards them. Some of us will be pushed.And failing is a close friend of entrepreneurs.
Failing more often means finding success sooner. This idea that success is reached sooner by more failures...is an idea we need to embrace. Own it. Make it yours. Claim credit for the idea. Just do it.
Share the stories creates a bigger pool of failures. Share those stories with each other. Our stories shared together create a library. We all can share in that library. We can escalate our failures faster and in more directions with more people adding their story and finding their lessons.Now. Ask yourself:
- Are you willing to share your stories of failure?
- Are you willing to celebrate those stories from others?
You may find you need a new community.
You may find a secret society already exists who share their stories.
You may find everyone nurtured a secret longing to learn from each other.
Or you may find a new community needs you and your stories.All that awaits us is our future that we can create and own, together, now.