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The Many Benefits of Failing

I am so excited to talk about failing. People are never excited about this topic, but it's such a wonderful topic. Why? Because failure done well, of course, (if you think about it afterwards), leads to growth. What I want to tell you today are a few of the things that failing does besides that. Why is failure so important? Adam Grant wrote a book called Think Again, and one of his points was that we have to fail in order to have new and better thoughts. You almost have to fail to get better, as failing is part of the process. All success is iterative. Here's what failing does- I'll try to be brief because I could go on forever! First of all, when I fail, it teaches me what does and doesn't work so I can make better choices in the future. And right now, when I make a choice, a decision in business, whatever it is, I am making the best choice I possibly can.

I often know it won't be perfect. But as Colin Powell said, along with many others, sometimes you just have to move forward with 80% of the information, or when it's just good enough, so you can move forward. You can't just stagnate in waiting for perfection. So, I go ahead with what I think can be done and I do the best I can, knowing it can be updated later, or it can be fixed later. Not everyone likes that. They want perfection out of the gate. And I will get complaints that something's not perfect out of the gate. Well, first of all, I have the benefit of failing because it teaches me what I can do better in the future and I can take that forward to my next decision. I also want to say that when I fail, it teaches other people how to do something better because they see the flaws in what occurred, and they start thinking of other ways.

When someone says to me, you messed up, you shouldn't have done it that way or it should have been this way-- you know, maybe it was an outcome or a process they didn't like. I learned from that. But also, if you think about it, they're now thinking about how to make something better. That means that they learn from my failure. It is very, very rare that anyone learns from a success. If I succeed and I put out something absolutely perfect, nobody's going to learn anything from it. For example, if I put out the most perfect HR policy manual ever, and there's not a single issue that anyone has with it, (which is impossible because it's HR), it will not ever teach anyone anything or myself, except that I probably took too much time. People say lead by example.

I want you to keep in mind that leading by example does not always mean that you're leading by what should be done. You can also be the example of what not to do. Now, ever do I ever want to be someone's example of what not to do in life? No, <laugh>, not really. I don't want to fail that much, but we do all have that person. It's like, oh wow, okay, that's what I should not do in my life. I don't want that in business ever. But there are examples of that. Lead by example, you don't have to be perfect to lead by example. You can actually use mistakes as a way to show how you are going to improve and other people can learn how to improve. I’ve spent way too much time in my life on that one.

So, both of those are about teaching me what doesn't work and teaching other people what doesn't work. How to improve on failure is that you're drastically increasing your rate of learning and your depth of learning. Failures really do make more of an impact than successes. No one knows how to learn from a success. Failing personally helps you grow personally and professionally.

If you're afraid to fail, you will never challenge yourself enough. You just won't. And in that regard, at the end of your career or at the end of your life, you're looking at a life where you were maybe not maximizing your skillsets and what you could have achieved. There are things that I can do now that I never thought I could have done ever- emotionally, professionally, physically. And it's all done by pushing myself. And all of you have pushed yourself in various ways. I would encourage you to keep doing that and failing as part of that process. And as people always say, if you're not failing, you're not learning. I have to set myself up for failure quite a bit.

What else does failing do? Because I've not been perfect my entire life, it has given me the confidence that I can persevere through anything. I fail, I make a mistake, I keep going. I can fix the mistake or I can't. And I have to find another thing to another way around it. Or I have to learn how to give a better apology or I have to learn, learn, learn, whatever it is. But nothing's ever killed me. I've never been fired. I've really just had a really great time learning. And I am taking with me the confidence that there is nothing that I can't overcome, because I mean well, right? I'm not ever failing maliciously or not doing well, maliciously.

The very last thing that is great about failing is that failing actually teaches your brain, it changes your brain, to accept change better. You know how they say everyone's afraid of change? (I freaking love change, but everyone's supposed to be afraid of change.) The more times you fail, the more accepting of change you are because you realize change is absolutely inevitable. You have to change all the time. But this process in your brain is called neuroplasticity. Your brain has to learn how to deal with something and then it literally changes. It physically changes in structure to be able to accommodate the new way of being. And that is how you get better with change. Let's go with this quote to end, “there is no failing, only feedback.” May you go forth and prosper through failing.


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