Fail, Fail, FAIL!

fail-imageYes, I’m telling you to fail. In fact, fail fast and fail hard. Then, turn around and teach your kids and your employees to fail as well. Why am I being so “mean” today? Because I LOVE YOU and I CARE DEEPLY about your success.

My 25 year old son went to a funeral this past week, the funeral of one of his college friends. We don’t know the whole story but it appears that this lovely young woman killed herself. According to what he knew of her and what everyone has said; she was gifted, talented, smart, accomplished, driven and on and on. I can’t even begin to imagine what could have caused the pain that this gal must have been going through. Sadly, she’s not the only one. My son, at the ripe old age of 25 has lost 3, yes 3, friends to suicide. Smart, talented kids with bright futures ahead of them that simply couldn’t take life anymore.

How does this happen?

One of the most impactful books that I’ve ever read is Mindset by Carol Dweck. I believe this should be a must read for all of us-especially if we have kids. In Mindset, Dr. Dweck talks about the difference between growth and fixed mindset. She says that as a culture we have been raising and teaching our kids to be of a fixed mindset. People that are growth mindset tend to take more risks, to dive into something new, to take a test or write a paper without cheating. Fixed mindset people are the opposite. They have a definition of themselves as successful, smart, talented, etc. but DO NOT have the capacity to fail in any way. Growth mindset people approach a challenge as a learning opportunity-no matter the outcome. Fixed mindset people will avoid a challenge and even cheat, lie or even take their life in order to avoid failure or disappointment.

Stop right now.

Can you name some people in each category? Where are you? How about your kids? I used to be fixed mindset oriented. I was smart, hardworking, well-liked, etc. Anything less was not OK with me. I remember being absolutely devastated by getting a C on a history test in 10th grade. I didn’t consider suicide but…. I was absolutely crushed and SOOOOOO disappointed with myself. But, you know what? It never crossed my mind to question what I didn’t know that lead to the C. Yes, I studied harder for the next test but I never thought about what I learned from that C. To be honest, I don’t think it was until I was in my 40’s that I began to operate from growth mindset (that’s when I discovered personal development).

And I made a change.

Dr. Dweck says that if we’re living from a fixed mindset and we don’t like it, WE CAN CHANGE! I believe that awareness is the first step. Facing challenges as learning opportunities is the second. Stepping into challenge ON PURPOSE is the ultimate test of your new growth mindset. Isn’t this pretty close to the definition of “entrepreneur”? I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs that are primarily fixed mindset folks. It’s a characteristic of successful people in general. Success not only requires some failure, it demands that we LEARN from our failures. FAILURE IS AN INVESTMENT IN OUR PERSONAL GROWTH and a requirement for future success.

Now what?

Well, you might start by defining failure for yourself. There’s failure and then there’s failure. I recently learned that one of my “colleagues” (or someone that I used to think of as a colleague) has mentioned a wish that we fail. In fact, I’ve heard that he hopes to put Legacy out of business. He’s betting on the wrong gal!! I’ve made mistakes and I’ll make more. I’d even classify some of those mistakes as failures but rather than complete and utter failures they were investments. I’ve learned from them because I pay attention, I revue, I admit when I’m wrong, I ask others what they think and I respect their opinion. I’m driven to succeed. No question. Complete and utter failure is simply NOT an option for me. Maybe the business model isn’t right yet. I’m OK with that. I don’t have a map that’s telling me how to do this. It’s created one day at a time. All I have is trial, error and what I learn from it (like who to trust). I’ll fail along the way, but my only true failure would be in not learning and in not making decisions to change when change is needed.

So, is quitting failure?

NO. Failing to make good decisions for yourself and your family is a failure but making the decision to do something else is just that. It’s a decision to take control and change. I work with too many people in career transition to think that making a change is a sign of failure.

My gift to you.

Allow your kids to try and fail. Encourage them to take a risk. Don’t save them. Talk to them about the value of life and tell them that you will love them NO MATTER WHAT. Create a culture of innovation in your company. Reward ideas-even the bad ones. Help your employees feel safe and valued in your company. Take a risk yourself. Challenge yourself beyond what you believe to be your limits.

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As always, say YES!

To YOUR success,
Peg Stookey