Painful isn’t a very inspiring word to use at the beginning of a blog post. Pain of any sort is not something we typically welcome. Most of us do whatever we can to avoid or reduce painful experiences and the consequences of our poor decisions.
William Arthur Ward is credited with this quote, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.”
Despite this quote’s sentiments, many people in our society seek immediate success. Reality and game shows offer winning contestants’ instant wealth and fame. Lottery jackpot winners are celebrated even though their good fortune was the result of luck.
Contrast this messaging with the dozens of times inventor Thomas Edison failed in his attempt to build the light bulb. As painful as this must have been, he is quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Yes, the failures of life and business are often painful and expensive. They are also instructive lessons if leaders are willing to apply them. Without failures there are no successes. Unless a product or service fails to deliver as promised, a business can’t innovate or improve what it is doing.
Failure, however painful, provides an important context for any future success.
I have a high need to succeed. That often prompts risky decisions, where the potential for painful failure is always present. Even my typical high standards of quality won’t prevent a disaster.
Fail I must and fail I do. It is these humbling encounters with disappointment that teach important life lessons and provide the wisdom needed to grow and learn.
While I don’t wish painful lessons on myself or anyone else, when they come may those experiences be our teacher.
“Nothing succeeds like failure. We learn far more about ourselves in our failures than in our successes. Failure is the greatest teacher of all.” – Robert A. Raines
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