Failure is a loaded word. When most people think of failure, they think of loss, things not accomplished, unfulfilled potential, or not achieving a goal. That outlook may be getting in the way of people realizing their dreams. Failing forward is a concept that encourages everyone to seek success in the face of adversity, to look for the upside when we fall down, and to turn failure into positive feedback. Here are a few examples to illustrate the point
At age 22, a young reporter was fired from her job co-anchoring the 6pm Baltimore nightly news after her program received low ratings. Told that she was "unfit for TV," she was demoted, and she later called the experience "the first and worst failure of her TV career.” That reporter was future talk show and lifestyle mogul Oprah Winfrey.
Timothy Ferris was an unknown author working in the nutritional supplement world, and received 25 rejections while trying to find a publisher for his first book. When the 26th publisher finally took a chance on it, his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, reached #1 on both the New York Times bestseller list and the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
When singer Stefani Germanotta signed a record deal with the Def Jam label to release her debut album, she thought she’d made it as a musician. But the label dropped her just three months later, before the album was even released, leaving her devastated. Nevertheless, within a few short years, Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, was a household name, being selected as one of the world's most influential people by Time Magazine.
Here’s a less famous example: My brother founded and operated a record label right after he finished college. During that time, he also started a band, serving as the lead singer. He loved both his job and singing in his band, and was certain he was doing what he was meant to be doing with his life. He had no other plans for his future, because he was sure that his life and career would have something to do with music. One way or the other, he was confident that either his record label or his band would be his future.
Well, after ten years, he still enjoyed his work, but the changing industry and declining album sales persuaded him to sell the company. And his band, as many bands do, eventually broke up due to the different ideas and personalities of its members. Abruptly, my brother’s certainty about his future was shattered. He was no longer in the music business.
My brother turns 40 on Friday, and if you ask if he considers running his label or singing in his band to have been failures, he’ll answer with an emphatic “No!” He spent ten years putting out records from some of his favorite artists and getting them heard around the world. He performed onstage for thousands of people in cities throughout Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Belgium, and the U.K., opening for one of his all-time favorite groups. He learned what it takes to launch and run a business, and got the chance to make music that he still takes a huge amount of pride in. The only failure would be if he wasn’t grateful for those experiences, or if he’d learned nothing from them that he could put to use in his life.
For many people, failure is a sign that they shouldn’t have tried, and so they don’t want to try again. But just because so many people are sidelined by failure doesn’t mean it has to be that way for you.
Failure is your chance to learn and grow, to understand what works and what doesn’t, all so you can integrate it into your strategy for whatever you attempt next. As long as you see failure as a roadblock to success, it’s almost certain to be one. But the happiest, most successful people in the world think of their crushing moments of failure as the times when they figured out exactly what they needed to do in order to reach their goals.
Michael Jordan once said, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
It’s up to you to decide: are you getting enough out of your failures? Are you failing forward? Happy Birthday to my brother Jadd! Hope this weekly story is a gift that everyone can find value in.
Until next week…
Live Your Dreams,
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