Success by Failure Is Not An Oxymoron

December 15, 2011

Many years ago, one of my professors asked me, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”  It was a major AHA! moment for me as I realized that my fear of failure limits my capabilities, goals and even dreams!

I learned that failures and struggles make us weaker or stronger.  With each challenge, we have a choice to turn a failure into a stepping stone to success, or allow it to dampen our spirit, energy and perseverance.  Often those with the greatest defeats also experience the greatest of victories.  Dale Carnegie once said, Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” 

Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. prides itself on demanding failure.  Their leadership team believes that employees who don’t fail every so often most likely will not advance.  Moreover, the team values mistakes as predecessors to both innovation and success, and therefore celebrates mistakes as a central component of its corporate culture.

This message has been broadcasted loud and clear to its employees.  A ‘Failure Wall,’ which Jeffrey Stibel describes in his post, Why I Hire People Who Fail is on display for all to view.  Jeffrey is Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and author of Wired for Thought.    

The primary purpose of the failure wall was to create a company culture where employees are encouraged to take risks without fear of reprisal.  The wall features a collection of inspirational quotes about failure including:

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

“I have not failed, I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” – Sophia Loren

A dozen Sharpies hang on the failure wall next to simple instructions: (1) describe a time when you failed, (2) state what you learned, and (3) sign your name. To set the tone when the wall was first hung, Jeffrey wrote his three most memorable failures.

While employees were not required to contribute, the wall quickly became populated with entries.   Most of them were life lessons, for example wisdom obtained after a major financial mishap, and lessons learned such as, “Who cares what other people think.” A few were self-deprecating such as, “My successful failure is working in online marketing when I came to LA to work in showbiz.”

All of the cited failures revealed that everyone fails at some point in life and what Jeffrey Stibel has repeated many times, “Success by failure is not an oxymoron.”   He explains that mistakes cause people to reflect on the root cause of their failure and to ascertain a new plan for their next attempt.  On the other hand, when a person succeeds, he or she is often unaware of what was done correctly or what exactly made him or her successful.  The critical success factor could have been luck after all!

The next time you fail, remember that “Success by failure is not an oxymoron.”  Choose to learn from your mistake and you’ll be one step close to victory.

This post is shared with you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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