I hid my disappointment and embarrassment as I strode into the conference room for a product launch review, precisely at 2pm.  I distributed the final draft of a pre-reviewed, 9-page handout to the 7 staff members in attendance, including the General Manager.

After 6 months of leading a sales launch with intensive promotion and sales effort, sales were less than 20% of projection and costs were bleeding cash.  The GM listened as each PowerPoint slide was intently discussed. There was some veiled finger-pointing. After all success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

The Closure Process

But we worked in a positive culture and most of the discussion was a clinical dissection of Things Done Right and Things Done Wrong.  The conclusion had been made before the meeting. Kill the product and redirect remaining budget to a new project.

It felt like watching the coffin of a best friend as it descended into the ground. You know the outcome after experiencing highs of optimism, passion, and emotion, only to bury a lifeless corpse. But, as humans, we transition to the future much easier if we conclude the past with ceremonial closure.

It didn’t feel good at the time, but we applied 5 principles that I will share with you at the end. These 5 principles led to many successes.  The only people who never fail, or the only people who never make mistakes, are people who do nothing at all. These people deprive themselves from the joy of learning.

Decisions are made with the best available information at the time. Face it, sometimes they’re wrong. Wrong outcomes narrow the decision process next time.

Making a wrong decision is better than no decision at all.

Be an Action Taker

I suggest that we be action-takers, that we be decision-makers, that we be students of outcomes.

Learning what doesn’t work is MORE IMPORTANT than watching what does work. When we believe and internalize the importance of learning from our actions, the fear of failure melts like an ice cube in the Florida sun. We accelerate our progress toward meaningful success.

I will say that another way. By taking action and learning from failure, we learn to face our fear of failure and take action so that we can learn again.

With this persistence, we will learn what not to do and what to do, we will move in the direction of our vision, we will achieve meaningful success.

Examples of Persistance

We know Apple today as the world’s first Trillion-dollar company because of its “i”Technology (mine term, not theirs) products.   But, how many of us know about the Apple III, the Lisa, the Apple Newton, or the Macintosh TV? All are considered to be failed Apple products.  Yet, they all provided learning lessons toward the Apple products we love today.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has said that Amazon’s failures cost billions of dollars. Yet, we know Amazon as a hugely successful Marketplace platform.  Few of us remember or care about the Fire Phone, Amazon Destinations, Amazon Pop-up stores, Amazon Tap, Amazon Tickets, Amazon Spark, Amazon Restaurants, or Amazon Storywriter, or many more.

The world’s best athletes didn’t start as world class. The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team. Muhammed Ali, the greatest fighter of all time, lost 5 fights during his career. Ty Cobb has the highest career batting average in baseball history at .366. That means that he failed at bat 2 out of 3 times. Yet he widely considered to be one of baseball’s greatest players.

Failure Does Not Have to be Destiny

Here are 5 tips to Succeed by Failing:

     1. Learn how to fail often but quickly.

When our product launch wasn’t working, we stopped and pivoted.

     2. Examine what could have been done better and apply the lessons learned to your next endeavor.

Repercussions are waste of time. We examined how to do better next time. Every great athlete examines every nuance in his or her technique.

     3. Feel good about moving on.

Armed with experience we are one step closer to success.

     4. Surround yourself with positive energy people.

Negativity drains confidence. Positivity smashes through obstacles.  Collaborate with people who provide constructive feedback.

     5. Commit to failing until you succeed.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Steady persistence wins the race.

What are your learning experiences and how can they help you achieve meaningful success?

Don’t fear failure, don’t accept failure either.  Just do it, learn from it and look back with satisfaction when you succeed.


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