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May’s nightmare: How to learn from failure

Better Business | Business Insights | May’s nightmare: How to learn from failure

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work” - Thomas A. Edison

  • The common view of failure is that it is simply a setback on the path to achievement
  • You will be feeling bruised, but try to be objective about how much was your fault and how much was circumstance
  • Perseverance may not be the answer – sometimes you have to quit

Few will be shedding many tears for Theresa May. Her election gamble has plunged the UK into political and economic uncertainty. All eyes are on her in assessing how she deals with this catastrophic failure. What should she know about learning from your mistakes?

American comedian Steve Harvey said: “Failure is a great teacher, and I think when you make mistakes and you recover from them and you treat them as valuable learning experiences, then you've got something to share.”

"Teachers told Edison’s mother he was too stupid to learn anything, to the point where he was home-schooled. He made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb."

This is the common view of failure; that it is simply a setback on the path to achievement, as long as you learn from it. That is easier said than done, however. Learning from your mistake and moving on when you are feeling raw from failure is extremely difficult. However, when your done with weeping and drinking gin, it is worth thinking about the following:

  1. Why did it happen? Take a blame-free look at why the problem happened. Was it a failure of decision-making? Or a failure of circumstances? How could you plan differently next time?
  2. Ignore the chatter in your head – Failure is bruising and it is easy to interpret it as an indictment of your approach. Truth is, you’re probably a bit to blame, but you were probably unlucky too. Try not to take it too personally.
  3. Perseverance isn’t necessarily the answer – Perhaps you’re just doing the wrong thing. You need to be honest. Sometimes you can’t wish something into being and you can’t make something happen just because you want it to be so. Listen to your gut feeling
  4. Be reflective. Resilience isn’t about blind optimism. Rather than blithely looking on the bright side and suppressing negative emotions, let yourself be gloomy as long as it doesn’t become self-indulgent.

Nevertheless, one way to bounce back from failure is to look at all the very good people who have failed before you - from friends and family to famous people. Teachers told Edison’s mother he was too stupid to learn anything, to the point where he was home-schooled. He made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

The truth most successful people have had failures, but not everyone who has failures is successful. You might be the next Thomas Edison, or you might just have to try something new. The next few weeks will make it clear whether Theresa May is one or whether she needs to do the other.

 

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