Workplace doctor: failure to take chances really is a failure
Dear Workplace Doctor, What lessons have you learnt from failure? I have heard there is a stigma attached to failure in this part of the world – in your experience is that true, and if so why? Conversely, why is failure not a stigma in the West? After all, it’s failure. BL, Abu Dhabi
It’s great to be talking about a subject that many simply push under the carpet. Failures can happen to anyone at anytime.
I would disagree with you about failure being a cultural perspective, but rather connected to people’s judgement of those surrounding you, applying opinions with often no basis. Why do we allow others’ opinions to override our own? When I look at myself, I’m proud to say my own personal lessons (not failures) have been far and many. Those who aren’t prepared to say that would surely be in the denial stage.
The first “failure” I can recall was when my senior school report card did not have 6As but rather 5As and 1C. You would have thought it the end of the world. I allowed it to have a debilitating affect on me for some time for one main reason – I was comparing myself to others and not to myself.
Receiving a C in economics, a subject that had always seemed so theoretical to me, was hard to accept. Yet as I progressed through my schooling, I missed the fact I was to become more au fait with each passing year. I had looked at my report card through a lens of all or nothing.
Through this limiting lens, I simply did not identify that this was a great opportunity to highlight and channel my energies into the five subjects I had excelled in, versus the one that drained my energy.
Ironically, with my own business now, my practical application of finance and economics excels. So how could that 1C have been a failure? Perhaps it was a failure of the school system being too theoretical.
I’m really having to dig deep into my memory to find another “failure”; that to me is great news because it means I’ve cleared any personal baggage.
When I think back on learning opportunities, I recall when I reached a level of job that I had dreamt of for years, yet alas, I was so out of alignment with the company’s corporate culture that I allowed it to label me as inept, resulting in a reduction in my productivity. Basically, I didn’t fit in with the company philosophy, which seemed to prioritise gossip and opinion over good old-fashioned hard work.
This corporate experience did not end well, or so I thought at the time, yet I now view it as the opening of doors to move into a whole new field. I now think the failure, if there really was one, was that I did not wish to recognise the misalignment and take proactive actions to remove myself from a culture that did not serve me.
I believe failure is really the world’s way of communicating that you are not suited to, or not ready for, a situation. It’s a stimulus to push you to prepare for the future in different ways.
Consider, for example, the case of a young Australian singer, Samantha Jade. She is a Kylie Minogue look and soundalike and now a huge hit on the music scene in Australia. She had two prior attempts to find fame, which both failed. With an equally good voice and set of videos today as with her previous attempts to achieve success, Samantha now has maturity on her side, helping her to master the fame and media that can destroy many young performers.
You are correct BL, failure is failure and thank goodness it is – who doesn’t need a gentle nudge every now and then to move beyond the known.
The greatest failure is not to take the chance at all.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague
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Updated: February 25, 2014 04:00 AM