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Failure is Not an Option

Throughout my business and consulting career I have made many mistakes.  My father once told me early in my business career that making mistakes is fine as long as I learn from them in the process.  As I think back to all of the decisions that I have made in business (and in life for that matter) I find that while not all of my decisions have led to failures I certainly have enough of them under my belt by now to at least write on the topic.

An example of a failure and a success all rolled up into one might be the Apollo 13 space mission.  The mission was made into a movie and in it the flight director for the mission Gene Kranz who was played by actor Ed Harris said, “failure is not an option”.  Mr. Kranz himself doesn’t recall saying those exact words although he did title his book with that exact phrase because he liked it so much. Either way you look at it, that saying has gained traction over the past number of years and has been uttered by many a leader and manager alike in business as well as life.

Depending on your perspective, “failing often” in business may be a bit bold or could send the wrong message to your team by seemingly encouraging them to go down the wrong path. The idea isn’t to seek failure, but to seek new ideas and take risks. If you’re afraid of failure, growth is impossible. Additionally, you may be too stunned, hurt or afraid to learn anything from that failure once it happens.

In the eyes of a customer, failure from a company’s standpoint is certainly not the place you want to purposefully fail.  However, if you are developing a product or service to at some point sell to that same customer then one wants to fail numerous times to ensure that all of the bugs are out of the system.  It is a fact that before a product or service makes it to market there has been numerous failings during the testing phases that allows the developers and designers to learn what does and doesn’t work.

In the appropriate context, failure is definitely an option.  In a lab where a new drug is being developed a high rate of failure is expected.  On an assembly line making children’s car seats, not an option.

What is my point?  Perhaps I will leave the last word to Bronson Taylor, Co-founder and CEO of Growth Geeks. “Failure is completely necessary and severely overhyped,” says Taylor. “Yes, true success is only possible if you are pushing your limits enough to fail, but failure was never the point – success was. Failure is the mean. Success is the goal.”

From the Jackson house to yours, may all of you have a blessed Christmas and a safe, healthy and prosperous 2016.  We will talk to you in the new year.

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