Most successful failure…

I just watched a History Channel show on Apollo 13.  This mission is often referred to as NASA’s “most successful failure.”  You probably remember, there was an explosion on board the spaceship that made it impossible for the crew to land on the moon and put their lives in jeopardy.  For 5 days, the world watched as a group of dedicated, smart people worked round the clock to bring the astronauts home safely.  Yes, the mission to the moon was a failure.  But, the ingenuity and dedication of the team resulted in the successful return of the astronauts to Earth.

In business, there are lots of stories of business people who suffered many failures before they finally achieved success.  In my own career, I can point to times when I made mistakes, and what I learned from those mistakes proved to be invaluable in my growth process. 

I remember one time in particular when I received an “average” performance review.  (For those of you who know me, you’ll know that was totally unacceptable in my head!!!)  I was irritated at first.  I felt that I had worked very hard and accomplished much.   But, here’s the deal — it didn’t matter what I thought.  It mattered what my boss thought.  So I redirected my anger into positive action.  I wrote a response to every point made on my evaluation.  Not a rebuttal, mind you, but a response of what I would do to correct the issue moving forward.  I gave this to my boss and asked for his comments or suggestions of anything further he thought I should add.

The next year, I got the biggest raise of my life.  A couple of years later, I made partner in the firm. 

This could have turned out very differently.  I could have played into my irritation, decided to leave the firm, and refused to recognize that my opinion wasn’t the one that counted in that instance.  I would have missed a great lesson.  I learned more about self-control, and I did accomplish some things I wouldn’t have without the refocus on the priorities of my boss.

What has been your most successful failure?  Do you accept “failure” as a learning opportunity?  Do you debrief those outcomes that don’t work quite right to determine what you could have done better?  Do you focus on the “you” in that last question, rather than focusing on what everyone else could have done?

Take ownership of your failures.  They’ll lead to your greatest successes.

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