Fail to Succeed

"If there is one wish I could have for this graduating class it would be that each of you fall flat on your face in the next year". This is a quote from the guest speaker at my daughter's high school graduation over 20 years ago. The profound nature and meaning behind it has kept it in my mind and thoughts ever since.

Upon hearing this opening comment at the graduation, most of the audience gasped. Many of the graduates looked at the speaker with what could only be described as total confusion. After all, here they were celebrating completion of a major step in life. After 13 years in the school system they were receiving their diploma. Many had already been accepted to colleges and universities across Canada and the United States. How dare someone tell them he hopes they fail in the next year?

The shock wore off as he proceeded with his speech. In essence the point was that up until this point most of them had never experienced failure. In some cases, individuals were passed along to the next grade when they perhaps should have repeated a year. All because the system was geared to provide positive reinforcement not negative feedback.

Considering this perspective one can't help but reach the conclusion that life would be rather boring if everything we attempted in life were achieved with a minimum of effort and came out exactly as planned.

Where would the learning be in that? Would we become arrogant about our successes? It is often through failing that we learn the value of success. True, Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, "We must learn from the mistakes of others as we can not possibly live long enough to make them all our self". However, he did not say that we should not learn from our own mistakes.

Think back over your life to date, particularly if you started a business within the past 2 - 5 years. Did it go exactly as you expected? Was there the occasional failure for you over this period of time? I hesitate to say that each one of us would be hard pressed to say no to these two questions.

Considering that all of us have had things go differently than expected. Considering that all of us have had the occasional failure. The question is more one of "what did I learn from that experience?"

Perhaps all we need to for a significant success is to examine our recent failure(s) and look for the lesson. Perhaps it takes an outside resource to help us see the lesson but regardless, learning from everything that happens to us is what makes us grow.