The Necessity of Failure
 
Jennifer Wilson

I’m writing this blog after consoling my oldest child this week.  She’s did not make it into a choral group she auditioned for and is understandably disappointed.  As a parent, I want nothing more than to sweep away her disappointment and somehow wave a wand (or something heavier) to get her what she wants.

 

As a leadership coach, though, I know that my daughter’s inability to achieve her goal is an important part of her development as a powerful leader.   So, we are encouraging her to take 100% responsibility for her lack of success and avoid blaming others or the system.  Instead, our counsel has been to evaluate what she could have done differently and how she could improve.  Then she can develop strategies for enhancing her future performance.

 

From failure, she will also be able to experience humility and vulnerability.  As sports leader Dave Checketts said, “Success builds character, failure reveals it.”  To show a leader’s character, my daughter will need to graciously accept condolences and coaching from others – something most of us would rather avoid.  She’ll need to congratulate her friends who made the choral group and keep her chin up when she answers inquiries about her own status. 

 

This disappointment will also enable my daughter to re-evaluate her commitment to her goal to be in this group.  I know she will continue singing and she’s signed up for chorus for the rest of the year.  However, she’ll now be forced to face decisions about how much more effort she wants to put forward to hone her skills to achieve her goal when the next audition period comes around.  She may decide, instead, that she’d rather put that additional time into swimming, dance, studies, reading or one of her other passions.  From this blessed disappointment, she’ll learn to prioritize her life.

 

Above all, failure will teach her to be resilient.  As my colleague Sylvia wrote in her wonderful blog on resilience last week, “Many times, under difficult circumstances, we discover that we have an inner strength that we had not acknowledged before.”  This week, I have witnessed this power and strength rise up from within my daughter, the leader. 

 

So, we must allow our children, our staff, our peers, our partners and ourselves to take risks and try new things that we know may lead to failure.  This will allow for growth– either by achieving our goals or through the lessons that come from falling short. 

 

What is your experience with failure?  How do you support those around you when they are experiencing disappointment or have fallen short of their goal?  How do you cope yourself?  Please consider sharing!

 

 We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn't.  Success often lies just the other side of failure.” – Leo Buscaglia

 

Gratefully,

 

 

Jen

www.convergencecoaching.com

 

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3 Responses
  • Krista Remer
    Krista Remer on September 1, 2010

    A quote I read recently came back to me after reading this great blog: “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
    For a perfectionist especially, “failure” is a hard one to take, so I try hard to think about what I HAVE accomplished versus what I have not. Besides, there is truly no failure when you are still working toward that goal – only the initial disappointment and recommitment to try again.

    Reply
  • David King on September 2, 2010

    Great article, couldn’t agree more. My favorite quote on failure is from Zig Ziglar; “failure is an event, not a person”.

    Reply
  • Jennifer Wilson
    Jennifer Wilson on September 2, 2010

    I love both of these quotes, David and Krista! Thank you very much for sharing you ideas!

    Reply
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