What Does Failure Look Like (And How Can It Lead To Success)?

I wrote a post about success a short while ago.  The context there was the Federer vs Murray Wimbledon tennis final and the significant achievement of a British player almost winning the Championship’s singles trophy.

James Dyson

James Dyson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it is worth spending a few moments thinking about the lessons that not being successful can offer.  My view would be, to paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’

Funnily enough I was talking about the principle of if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed with the owner / manager of a take-away restaurant recently.

We were speaking days after Spain won the Euro 2012 tournament.  England’s performance was dogged, Group A winning, but not ultimately successful.  It suggested there was room for improvement.

I think the take-away manager and I decided that in the UK failure often brought out a response of, ‘Well what did you expect?’ or perhaps, ‘It isn’t worth trying again”.

In the US and elsewhere the attitude is more “Hey never mind.  I know it didn’t work out, but what are you going to try next?”

So there’s the background.  It can take a lot of self-belief to miss a goal and use the experience to improve.

Here’s an article exploring these themes further, written by the entrepreneur and inventor Sir James Dyson.  I can’t find fault with his observation that “Success takes time, patience and perseverance”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/22/failure-can-be-an-option

Thinking more broadly there are parallels to performance in the sporting world too.  Here are some thoughts about what it takes to reach the Gold medal standard.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18893044

I like Track Cyclist Victoria Pendleton ‘s comment that, learning lessons from not reaching a goal, entails “having a robust self-esteem with an identity that is not too defined by performance results so [you] can maintain [your] emotional stability and work out how to improve.”

Which sounds a lot like Sir James Dyson’s reflection, “Failure is painful, but it spurs on improvement like nothing else.”

I think those are timely insights for Athletes, Innovators, or Regular Folk like the rest of us.

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