Owning Failure


I will likely fail at something this week, or maybe even today if I’m being honest.  I’ll get frustrated with myself, but I will own the failure.  Ideally, I’ll learn something from this and avoid making the same mistake in the future.  As Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Paul Borawski is talking about failing, and I’m not surprised to see a survey that indicates parents fear failure for their children entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields.  In a culture where children’s sports no longer include winners and losers, this makes sense.  We promote anti-bullying campaigns but fail to instill self-confidence.  We don’t push as hard as we should.  This is most certainly a cultural thing, and it’s something that needs to change.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is to admit failure.  It’s unrealistic (and quite stressful) to believe that perfection is attainable, in yourself or others.  So, the key to failing is all in how you handle it.  One failure is forgiving, but to repeat the failure is no good.  One could even argue that the best lessons actually come from failures…

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Edison

Look at the differences in the results of how J&J and Toyota handled failure vs. BP and Ford.  J&J and Toyota admitted failure and dedicated themselves to resolution and continuous improvement whereas BP and Ford avoided taking responsibility, delayed information and overall didn’t gain any credibility with regards to how they might make things better.  Admitting failure and taking responsibility is the way to go.

“Develop success from failures.  Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” ~Dale Carnegie


Comments Off on Owning Failure