A business executive at IBM had a plan that he thought would help the company increase sales. Nearly all of his colleagues told him it was not a good idea.
Nonetheless, the man persisted and implemented his plan.
It turned out to be a huge failure. It cost IBM over $10 million – and that was in the 1950s. That’s about the equivalent of losing $100,000,000 today. One hundred million dollars!
Needless to say, the executive was summoned to meet with IBM’s founder & chairman, Tom Watson.
With a racing heart and trembling hands, the man walked into Watson’s office – fully expecting to be terminated.
With a quivering voice he asked Mr. Watson, “How soon would you like me out of the company?”
Tom Watson’s response not only epitomes exceptional leadership, but gives us a hint into the value of profiting from failure.
“Fire you? I just spent ten million dollars educating you.”
Imagine how you would feel if you were that employee. Probably pretty motivated to learn from your mistake and push yourself to achieve remarkable results.
That’s the value of looking at failure as something to embrace. Not in a foolish irresponsible manner, but within a thoughtful growth-mindset framework.
The fastest path to growth occurs when we can view failure as a helpful learning method and something to aspire toward.
Instead of something to be avoided at all costs, we can embrace failure as a fast-path to growth. Perhaps even seek out failure in the pursuit of personal development.
It is much easier to learn from failure than it is from success. In fact, research suggests that many people (especially men) attribute success to their own skills whereas they attribute failure to something external (like the economy or bad luck). But when we can view failure as something we can learn and improve from, then we experience extraordinary growth.
But embracing failure is hard … and scary.
We attribute the act of failing with the label “failure”. If I fail at something, then I am a failure. Such thinking leads to an avoidance mindset, and growth becomes extremely self-limited.
If we can instead reframe the act of failing within a positive mindset, then we can transcend our boundaries. With each failure, we can utter an affirmative, “This is something I can definitely grow from. What lessons will I take from this, and how do I want to apply them?”
Noted 19th century lawyer, abolitionist, and advocate for Native Americans, Wendell Phillips, concisely posits:
What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better.
How do you view failure? Do you go to great lengths to avoid it, or do you seek it out as a stepping stone for growth?
Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the habit of avoiding failure and how we can reframe our mind to allow for much faster personal growth. I look forward to seeing you then.