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Make Failure a Friend

It Starts Well…

There you are.  With oustanding plan in hand you approach your boss with the plan to take your organization to the next level.  You amass your team and the research begins.  As you had hoped the research confirms your suspicions.  You elaborate your plan, ensuring all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.  Pricing confirms its doable.  Clearance is given, you present to your Executive Team and you’re given the go ahead.  Production moves forward.  Execution is flawless.  And when the results come in… you’re dead in the water with no needle movement at all on the Market-O-Meter.

How Do You React?

Assuming this has happened to us all, what is it that makes the best laid plans go sour?  Sports related, business related, or in our personal lives, it comes out of nowhere.  Failure.  It’s unfortunate part of life, but can anything be done to prevent it?  Should you attempt to prevent it?  I submit no.  To avoid failure is to avoid success.  We simply can’t succeed in life without failing a few times.  Failure pushes us to succeed:  miscalculated projections caught by your CFO will get your attention in a hurry – and you won’t make that mistake again, right?  But to get back to the first question – can we always anticipate failure?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Sucks, huh?

So Now What?

Everyone hates to fail.  For me, it’s like a rollercoaster.  Your preparation is the metaphor for boarding the ride.  The push-off of the campaign is the metaphor for creeping up the first big hill.  It’s exciting, exhilirating and scary, all rolled into one.  The plan launches; your car reaches the top.  And then just as your car rolls down the hill, the report comes across your desk.  With the giddy anticipation of that free fall that you’ve planned for, the ride suddenly ends.  No sales gain.  No climax.  Now what?

Failure has much to teach us.  It taught JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, a few things.  Look at how she has turned out.  She’ll be remembered for her success in literature and far from being considered a failure.  Failure has many facets to it, but I would submit one question about failure.  Do you own your failure?  How much ownership do you take in your projects?  The ultimate determination of what occurs next falls in your hands – and it always has.  Your team might help pick up some of the pieces in a failed campaign, but that’s an assumption you can’t afford to make.  Take acountability of any project – good or bad.  Investigate and investigate and investigate some more.  Guide your team to start looking under rocks.  The answer might be elusive, but it’s out there.  Find it.  Was your research flawed?  Did the pricing need adjusting?  Did you involve the wrong people or not involve the right people?  Consider the possibilities.  Use the creativity you’ve been blessed with as a marketer or business leader to resolve the issues.


We only get a few shots in this life.  And as difficult a time as I have with this next statement, I admit some truth in it.  Failure IS closer than you think.  It’s a hair’s width away.  But on the other side of that hair is where Success lives.  Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Read that statement again.  “…One failure to another….”  It’s unrealistic to expect failure is a distant relative.  So embrace failure but don’t let it beat you.  Hug it like an ex-wife or ex-husband (there’s a realistic picture for failure, huh?)   But go on to better things because you ARE capable of it.  You will find success.

Look at your last failure.  Analyze how you took in the bad news.  How did you respond?  Did you throw your arms up in the air, hide or simply quit?  This post is fitting, considering the failure of many NCAA teams this weekend.  Many top ranked teams lost including #1 Ohio State, #3 Georgia, #4 Florida and a few others lost; many on their home turf.  Learn from their coaches who will undoubtedly admit that they played a better team, that they’ll watch the game films to see what’s wrong and that they’ll come back with improved game plans come next Saturday.

Plan to succeed.  When failure occurs, embrace it.  Own your failure.  Adjust.  Then…Succeed!


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