HomeConsultantFailure: layoffs, fired, lost customer, or just plain ol’ mistakes

When it comes to failure, how do you see it? How do others see it? How do you and others handle failure? There are three ways that I’ve seen on handling failure, they are:

  1. Dwelling on Failures
  2. Dealing with Failures
  3. Denying Failures

Notice that all of them deal from a time perspective.

Dwelling on your failures means that you continually focus your time and energy on the past and do not look out toward the future. You spend way too much time thinking and going over the failure well beyond a reasonable amount of time it takes to see the situation clearly and to find a solution.

Denying failures means that you run past the failures and do not honestly see what yours or others responsibilities are or were in the situation, you do not become not accountable to what you are responsible for. You see this in kids when something goes wrong, they state “they did it” and you see the same thing in some adults when pressed for who is responsible.

Dealing with failure means you have an honest conversation about what went wrong and who was responsible for what. Everyone has a responsibility in failures, not only you, but those around you.

Failures by You. Take an honest look at what your responsibility was in the situation. What did you not see, do, or communicate with others prior to the failure? After the failure? Whether it was your failure or someone close to you, you had a responsibility to help yourself and those around you.

Failures by your Company or Organization, your State, and more importantly, our Nation. The problem with each of these is that it depends on the culture of each of them. I had a recent conversation with a friend that attended a high school reunion late last year. He echoed what both my wife and I observed at ours: those that had stayed in the home town did NOT change one bit while we all had “moved on” with our lives. Leonardo Da Vinci stated “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” Old can be new, and new can be old. Sometimes situations can be out of your control but we’re affected nonetheless.

I like the quote by Thomas Edison where he states “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.” He was one of the great inventors in our nation, but his failure was that he could have been even more productive if he had listened to one of his assistants. Nikola Telsa stated “His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 percent of the labour. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.”

How to find answers to failure? It simple. The principle is this: just like the emergency procedures that the airlines give you when you are flying, put on the oxygen mask on yourself first, then move on toward your kids or the person next to you. Same goes for life. Take a look at yourself first and see what you could have done either more of or differently, then your neighbor, what could they have done more of or done differently? Or, more importantly, what could you have helped them with? A kind word of encouragement when they needed it, a little “smack down” when they were getting too haughty. 

Look for opportunity in each situation and take some time to reflect on what it can offer. When I was a teenager, my Uncle Glenn took me to his machine shop and showed me all of what he did. He is amazing at what he does. He showed me his yard and all of the “junk” that was in the yard, that’s what I called it when I saw it. He pointed to a rusted piece of equipment and asked what I saw. As a not caring teenager I said “a piece of junk” smugly and he stated “I see a piece of good metal that I can machine off the rust and make something of it and resell it for a profit to someone else after I have added value to it.” As you can see, I did not forget that lesson he taught me.

As a Pastor friend in Denver’s inner city stated it, “I don’t give fish, but I teach others to fish, but more importantly I want people to own their own pond!” 

It’s up to each of us to see the opportunity each of us can contribute to those around us. But just as above there are three ways of looking at failure, there are three ways of looking at our neighbors:

  1. Selfishness – you have NO concern for those around you at all and are only after for what you can get.
  2. Brothers Keeper – considers not only themselves first, but how they can help contribute to those around them.
  3. Selflessness – will forego things for themselves in order to help others, sacrificially in some cases.

Take ownership of your problems, but take some ownership of some of your brother’s problems as well.


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