Have you ever observed and wondered how some people seem to bounce back from any type of setback? How do they do it? How are they so resilient?
Ever since I recently moved back to North Carolina, I have been truly amazed at the incredible entrepreneurs who I have met and collaborated with professionally. These folks have come from a variety of industry backgrounds including the FBI, pulpit, pharma, sales training, personal development, coaching, business development, and many others.
As I was considering the content for this article, I wanted to get these individuals’ perspective on ‘how’ they have become so successful and how they have successfully persisted through failure and setbacks. Their responses, as you will read, are profound and wise.
Whereas others might have given up when obstacles seemed too difficult for breakthrough, the individuals you will read about below knew failure was just part of the success equation. They actually associated failure as a requirement for success. Additionally, by taking risk and learning from such failure, they bounced back each and every time and accomplished even more.
Lin Jordan has an ‘impressive-yet-classified’ background from the FBI and now enjoys connecting and supporting business entrepreneurs. He’s a pay-it-forward gentleman that I deeply respect. About failure, Lin believes "failure is a state of mind that is chosen rather than assigned. If you must, define failure as a temporary detour leading to success." Lin finds the lyrics to Sarah McLachlan’s song Just Another Ordinary Miracle Todayto be a great motivational resource:
"When you wake up everyday
Please don't throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
Cause we are all a part of the ordinary miracle”
~ Sarah McLachlan
Another mentor and friend having an incredible perspective on leadership and failure is Rich Gorman, owner of the renowned Sandler Training in Raleigh North Carolina. In 1990, Rich remembers reading a book by Robert Schuler titled ‘Success Is Never Ending, Failure Is Never Final’. For him, the book was life changing and put him on a path of personal growth that still continues today. Through that journey Rich realized that “failure is a prerequisite for sustainable success. Everyone fails. We can choose to look at failure as a negative experience, or we can choose to look at it as a learning experience with lessons to guide us on what needs to be changed in order to achieve our desired result.”
Rich continued, “the ability to learn from our failures is what allows the top performer to move forward and grow. If, on the other hand, we only see our failures as a reflection of our limitations, we will never use them as leverage to move forward and improve future performance. At Sandler, we recognize failure as a positive experience that gives us freedom to try new things, to be creative, and to move beyond our comfort zone.”
When I asked Rich about how he helps people move from a mindset of feeling like a failure to accepting failure for success, he replied with the following thoughts. “Accepting this concept intellectually is easy. However, dealing with failure emotionally is quite difficult. The ability to positively deal with failure requires the ability to separate your role performance from your self-esteem and your self-worth. People with a healthy self-esteem are able to more easily grow as a result of failure. If dealing with failure is difficult for a person, we typically work to bolster self-esteem. That process takes work but is certainly manageable.”
Incredible perspective from Rich – wise, very wise. His Sandler Training philosophy is spot on.
Becky Sansbury is a former chaplain and has an amazingly calm-yet-enthusiastic persona. She is an expert in adapting to crisis situations and finding resiliency during times of significant trauma. Becky shared the following thought with me, “Did you ever notice how shocked we are when we fail at something, as if perfection should be our assumed constant level of achievement? That belief makes us brittle, breakable, and more likely to fail. Recognizing temporary failure as a natural possibility on the continuum of success makes us flexible, resilient, and more likely to succeed. Ironic, isn’t it?
My friend Steve Hand coordinates all the Business Network International(BNI) chapters. When it comes to business networking, Steve is THE guru. When I asked Steve for feedback about his perspective on bouncing back from failure, he shared several quotes that he lives by and believes in:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.” ~ Zig Ziglar
“I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” ~ George Burns
“One of the secrets of life is to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks.” ~ Jack Penn
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”~ George Bernard Shaw
I cannot agree more with my friends in this article who have shared their thoughtful perspectives on how essential failure actually was to their success! I know this sounds odd because society has conditioned us into thinking that failure is BAD. However, failure is inevitable, especially to a leader who takes risk, and failure is simply part of life in many ways.
Unfortunately, I feel that many people never pursue their innermost desires and achieve their full potential because they are afraid of failure and are even more afraid of looking like a failure. Yet now we know that taking risk and even failing is a requirement for success in many ways!
Most people assume success only results from taking the correct actions and never making any mistakes. As this article points out though, we should be continually reminded we can learn just as much, if not more, from failure’s ‘teachable moments’ and picking ourselves back up one more time. What matters is not how many times we fall down, rather, it is how many times we pick ourselves up. In fact, I prefer the following quote even better: “It is not how many times we fall down that matters, it is how high we BOUNCE when we do fall down!”
Question: What would you do right now, if you knew you would not fail?
(Do not continue reading until you reflect on an answer to that question!)
What is keeping you from taking action towards this goal? Is it fear of failure in some way? Are you afraid of not being successful or afraid of not having enough, time, money, or support from someone else? Perhaps you are not comfortable with leaving your current comfort zone?
This fear has likely been keeping you in status quo, whether you have realized it or not.
Another question: Are you happy with where your life is right now? If I had a magic wand, would there be any changes you would like to make?
Likely, the answer is YES. Even for me, there are changes I want, need, and EXPECT to make both now and in 2013. For YOU, I think it is time for a new way of thinking – a positive change. I feel for you, without even knowing you, that it is time for you to ‘think differently’ about fear and failure like never before, and to start envisioning the success you will shortly have in your life because you are no longer afraid to take action.
You can accomplish anything you set your mind to yet YOU have to make the cognitive choice to get out of life what you expect from it. No one else is going to do that for you. And if fear of failure has been holding you back, one of the first steps you must take is to associate this fear of failure as a requirement for success! Even if you do make a mistake or fail in some capacity, associate this failure as an essential teachable element for living your dream and achieving goals. Simply learn as much as you can from that failure - you can never lose! Now that is an incredible feeling and it is possible to condition your thinking accordingly!
It will take effort to change this neuro-association and it most likely will not happen overnight. It will take time. But like a toddler learning to walk, you can, and need to, take baby steps to change this mental focus. And even if you fall down and feel like you cannot continue, you have to force yourself to try again and again – and even then again. An object in motion stays in motion; or the lack thereof.
Remember, it’s not how many times you fall, it is how many times you bounce back up even wiser. You simply just realized a way your approach would not work – and for that, be grateful.
To Your Current and Future Success!