“Failure” doesn’t have to be soul destrying

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan, who is aclaimed as one, if not the, greatest basketball players of all time.)

Many of the reports I saw about the 2009 Oscars mentioned the fact that this was Kate Winslet’s 6th nomination. Yet this was only the first time that she won. Watching her acceptance speech, talking about imagining this moment as a child, it did not appear that her previous “failures” were detracting from her success this time around.

I also recently came across a story of a Korean who has, so far, failed their driving test over 700 times. What struck me the most when I read this was the focus and determination to reach the end goal of passing the test and driving.

I know that sometimes it can appear “soul destroying” to not have achieved, yet, what you are working towards – be that job related, academic or personal. I also know that how you interpret such a situation can, if you let it, knock your confidence. Particularly if you get really caught up in the story that it is a “failure” and don’t see what might come next.

When I work with people on a more individual basis I often ask them what achievements they are proudest of. Many of the answers I get relate to something which didn’t necessarily go smoothly – maybe gaining a qualification, finding a job or passing a driving test after several attempts. The benefit of hindsight can be a wonderful thing and looking back at such events are often classed as a success rather than a failure.

The fine details may be different about the content of each event but the thing that they have in common is that they kept going. Maybe doing something different each time but keeping at it until they got what they wanted.

There is a story about Thomas Edison, being asked by a journalist about how he felt having failed to invent the light-bulb 700 times. Edison replied “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

I have no idea if the Korean re-sitting their driving test is changing what they are doing each time, I do know that they are obviously keeping going. I also know, that it is much easier to keep going if what you are working for is something you actually want. Just like winning an Oscar was for Kate Winslet as she imagined it as an 8 year old in front of the mirror.

I invite you to play with the following:

1. Pick something that you have not yet achieved, and that you felt bad about that situation.

2. Firstly, it’s worth checking is this something you want to do?

What do you want to achieve by doing this?

If you don’t actually want to do this but you want the result – how else could you get that?

For example, lets say that Prunella has yet to succeed with her diet.
It’s not something that she particular likes or wants to do but she’d love to think, feel and look more fantastic and attractive.
When looking at how else she could feel and look fantastic Prunella could come up with the following:

* Take up some form of gentle exercise – she’s been watching, “Dancing on Ice” (a celebrity ice skating show) and ice skating looks fun.
* Her work colleague Noami has been looking really good recently and she certainly doesn’t seemed to have been starving herself on a diet, Prunella could ask her how she’s done that,
* She could give herself a make over sorting out all her old clothes that don’t suit her body-shape,
* Her brother Tony has been talking a lot about a system in a book that worked for him, maybe she could borrow that book and see if she liked it too.

3. Having decided that this is something that you want:

Imagine that you have travelled forward a year in time, looking back at that “failure” notice how important it is to you a year further on.
Travel forward 10 years from today, look back again and notice how important that event is to you 10 years on
Finally travel all the way forward so that you are sat in a rocking chair, in your old age, surrounded by those who love you and those you love. Notice how important that thing you used to think of as a “failure” is to you now.

When you are ready come back to the present time.