Why Great Business Leaders Embrace Failures

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Scenario: "Dude, Steve Jobs is the evervecent big honcho who turns everything he touches into gold. To be a great leader as that dude, I have to be perfect in everything I do. Yay!"

Conventional thinking goes....

The best leaders are perfect. To be one of them, you'll need to be perfect too. Blah.

Conventional wisdom sucks again...

Sure, BusinessWeek, Fortune, MacWorld all highlight what a badass Steve Jobs has been. It seems he's hasn't failed. From the iPod, to the iTunes, to the iMac, to Pixar, the Mac nerds and media insist he's superhuman. Of course, they forget his failures: the Apple Lisa, NeXt, the recent G4, and several others. As a result, you get a skewed perspective of becoming a great leader: a perfect badass who's perfect with everything. Yet, the "perfect badass" like Steve Jobs is nothing but: that leader embraces failures like it ain't no thang but a chicken wing on a string.

Why should you embrace failure as a leader?

Three reasons:
  1. Failure drives you to do something.

    The root cause of procrastination is trying to be perfect. Yet, when you embrace failure, you do something. Appreciating the worse-case scenario gets you acting. It's as if you're at the bottom of the totem pole, and you have nowhere to go but up -- so you embrace the "I-have-nothing-to-lose" mentality.
  2. Failure drives you to take big risks.

    Big risks requires having a higher failure rate. Yet, you know one big success will overshadow a thousand failures.
    • Colonel Sanders was rejected from 1000 restaurants before someone accepted his secret recipe.
    • Edison conducted 100s of experiments before he could make his bulb light.
    • Oprah was rejected by numerous television stations before someone took a risk on her.
    If you're shooting for that one big sucess, start experiencing as many failures as you can.
  3. Failure drives you to seek the best answers.

    A success can probably bring you a big smile, but it rarely tells you anything about how you succeeded. Says Duke's William Pierce:
    When a complex system succeeds, that success masks its proximity to failure.

    The Scenario

    Imagine that the Titanic had not struck the iceberg on her maiden voyage.

    How Success Would've Sucked

    The example of that "unsinkable" ship would have emboldened success-based shipbuilders to model larger and larger ocean liners after her. Eventually the Titanic or one of those derivative vessels would probably have encountered an iceberg -- with obvious consequences.

    Why Failure Then Rocks

    Thus, the failure of the Titanic contributed much more to the design of safe ocean liners than would have her success.

How do I sart?

Here's something we do:
  • Strive for 1 failure a day.

    Of course, you'll achieve more success with more you failures. But first, get into the habit of adopting one failure as an everyday activity. It could be anything: selling your wares with a cold call, or as non-business as asking out that hot guy/girl.
As our motto at Trizzy goes:

The more failures you have, the more successes your badass will find.


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Posted on September 18

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