In life, there are certain truths. One of these is that to succeed, many times, you must first fail. Obviously, this is not always the case, but if you are like me and many others, success doesn’t come easily or on the first try.
Learning to ride a bike is one of many great examples that proves my point. The process begins with training wheels to build up confidence, get a feel for pedaling, and learning how to brake. Watching a child zip around on his or her bike at this stage is exhilarating, yet an anxious experience because of what comes next. Then the real challenge and test of resolve begin when the training wheels are removed. Anxiety on the part of the adult sets in while fear and self-doubt creep into the mind of the child. I can vividly remember falling numerous times. In the end, though, each failure became a building block for eventual success.
The point of the bike story and countless others is that failure should not weigh us down and in turn, prevent or obscure a pathway to success. To this day, my personal and professional lives are fraught with varying degrees of failure. However, I know full well that I would be in a much different place today in both regards if I looked on these experiences as negative and constantly dwelled on them. This is not to say that I never did both. Sometimes it is hard to get over the hump when we don’t believe in our abilities and ideas. In the end, though, it all comes down to mindset and learning from mistakes.
There is a distinct relationship between failure and success. William Arunda sums it up nicely:
“Failure is not a step backward; it’s an excellent stepping stone to success. We never learn to move out of our comfort zone if we don’t overcome our fear of failure. The most progressive companies deliberately seek employees with track records reflecting both failure and success. That’s because someone who survives failure has gained invaluable knowledge and the unstoppable perseverance born from overcoming hardship.”
To succeed, you must accept that the chances are you are going to fail first. We have seen this lesson time and time again from famous failures throughout history. The relationship between the two imparts some valuable lessons, which can influence our behavior now and well into the future. Below are some essential learnings from failure and success:
- Determination is the fuel. You will get knocked down. The question is, will you get back up? Try and try again until you achieve the result you and others want.
- Use failure as a valuable form of feedback, which can lead to improvement and ultimate success.
- An agreement with ourselves to face fear head-on to tackle obstacles and challenges that are always part of the equation. Ignoring or shying away will always result in outcomes that are not favorable or acceptable in the long term.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn. The key is not to make the same mistake twice.
- Consistent effort makes all the difference.
There is a lot more that can be learned from this relationship. After focusing at the individual level, it is essential to look beyond ourselves and towards the bigger picture. System-wide success hinges on viewing change as a process, not an event. As the adage goes, there is no “I” in team. Failure and success then become a shared responsibility where the “downs” are worked through, and the “ups” are collectively celebrated. In the end, we either sink or swim together in schools and organizations. The choice is yours.
Source: A Principal's Reflections
I am a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE).