Our life, our business and our society can be defined by our successes and our failures. What we achieve when we win and what we learn (or don’t) when loose. The hubris that can go with success and the desperation that can accompany failure. It is our response to both success and failure can determine how we are perceived by others.
When we succeed most of us find it easy to get sucked in to the idea that our success was something to do with our brilliance. When we fail we find it correspondingly difficult to fully bear our responsibility. This is not to say that we contribute nothing to our success and we are entirely to blame for our failure, but that both are created by a myriad of factors that we have more or less to do with.
Our education taught us the myth of individual success and failure. If we passed, we were given most of the credit, if we failed we bore most of the blame. In reality and like most things it was a team effort; our teacher, our parents, the school, the environment and our class mates would all have had a significant role in the outcome.
When we succeed in business it is easy to believe that it is because we are doing something right – and that may well be the case – but it is also likely that the market is going our way and that there are many other factors contributing to our success. The danger that comes with success is hubris, it is so easy to slip into the belief that we are special, clever, brilliant, immortal. However, as Daniel Quinn said in “Ishmael”, it can be easy to mistake falling for flying – until you hit the ground.
Failure comes with the twin dangers of accepting all of the blame or not accepting enough of it. If we accept too much of the blame we might be demoralised by it, if we accept too little we might fail to learn from it.
Fulfilment comes from effectively navigating between the two. Learning equally from success and failure. Learning from success requires a level of objectivity and the humility to credit all of the sources of success with their contribution. Learning from failure requires an openness to self examination that can accept and be open about weaknesses, in order to find ways of compensating for them. Learning from failure also requires an absence of ego and self pity to see things objectively.
These effects apply at all levels, whether we are considering an individual, a team, an organisation or a society. The twist in the tale is that both success and failure are, as Rudyard Kipling described them in “If”, “impostors.” What most of us really seek is not the euphoria of success, but a sense of peace and fulfilment.
Peace comes from ending of all of our conflicts. When we make peace with our conflicts they become the foundations of our strength. In a business this might mean turning a troublesome relationship around or learning the lesson and moving on from it, so that either the reformed relationship or the lesson of the relationship becomes a source of strength.
Fulfilment comes from contributing value in alignment with our purpose and vision. When we know and wholeheartedly pursue our purpose and vision, we will be contributing value to others. It is this contribution of value that gives us our sense of fulfilment.
In summary – create in yourself and in your team the humility to learn from failure and credit success, while taking neither too seriously. Focus on peace and fulfilment by taking the time to end conflicts, both inner and outer and by delivering value to others through the pursuit of your purpose and vision.
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