I have a playlist of Disney soundtracks. While I claim this is for my two girls, you may or may not see me driving around with tears streaming down my face singing “A Whole New World”…and yes…I sing both parts. Don’t hate.
Can you imagine a world without the magic that Walt Disney created?
You easily could have. We would have missed out on his genius if Walt had listened to the newspaper editor who fired him as a young man for “lacking imagination and having no creative ideas.” As a young leader, Walt Disney failed.
Walt’s take on failure...
Walt understood that failure has two certainties: It is inevitable and it is a chance to learn. Failure is going to happen. There is no choice in the matter. If you want to achieve anything you are going to fail at something. Learning from failure however, is not such a given. In fact it is a choice. Failure sends some people spiraling downward as it is charged with emotion and can attach itself to our self-worth. Decide that failure will not be your master but rather your teacher.
Everyone can learn 4 lessons from failure.
1. How to communicate.
Leaders know how to communicate. It is a must. Rare is the person who knows how to do that from day one. It is a learned skill. There is no greater instructor on effective communication than ineffective communication. Use a failure to figure out where you missed the mark on inspiring your team. Did you give too few details? Should you inspire more? Do you have a tone that is not received well? Could you work on giving better feedback? Are you saying things in ways that you understand but not for your hearers to grasp? Allow yourself to learn what did not work and adjust your communication style to succeed the next time.
2. The feeling of fear.
Fear is never more felt than when you fall flat on your face. Am I cut out for this task? Will I lose my job? Is anyone ever going to trust me again? If you don’t know how to handle it, fear is what will stop you from living the life you could. Fear is a voice that has to be overcome. Failure serves as a great school on how to do this. Use small failures to prepare you to face big fears. To accomplish greatness you will face great fears. Make sure you’ve learned to stand in the face of those before you get there.
3. Healthy ways to think.
Audacious goals require strong minds. Failure can forge mental toughness. To accomplish anything of merit one has to think different than the rest of the pack. Success will only validate someone’s way of thinking, but failure forces us to think new thoughts. Great leaders are agile in their thinking. They know the difference in being tenacious about an idea versus open-minded to hear other options. In moments of failure ask yourself how you could have been more receptive to ideas. Reflect back to ways that you could have shifted from a short-term viewpoint to seeing a larger picture. Use failure to force you to think like a winner.
4. Your unique contribution.
Did you know Oprah was fired from her first TV job? She was a news anchor. Do you struggle to see her in that role? Me too. Guess what…so did they! Her sweet spot is giving away vans, not reporting robberies. Oprah has a unique voice and so do you. Failure helps to refine that. The reason failure is not final is because it chips away the elements of us that do not belong.
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Take a risk today. Do something that others think is too much for someone your age or capacity and may cause you to fail. If failure comes your way, know that it is not final and that you are learning from the greatest teacher of success there is.