Michael Jordan once said, "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
He certainly didn’t see failure as a road block; more as an influencer. He succeeded because he had will – the will to never, ever give up.
He was cut from his high school team, yet went on to be arguably the greatest athlete that has ever lived.
And he isn’t the only leader whose success stems from failure.
Albert Einstein didn’t learn to speak until he was four and read until he was seven.
Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for lacking imagination and good ideas.
The Beatles were told by a record company that their sound wasn’t likable.
Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before figuring out the solution.
Would you consider any of the above failures? Absolutely not.
While I am certainly not considered legendary in my field, I have embraced my failures as another step toward success. When I was a child, I was teased for being fat. Today, I know not to jump so quickly to judgment because many of those who teased me for my weight have their own latent insecurities. In high school, I was told I wasn’t a good enough writer to work for the student newspaper. I’ve launched multiple publications since then. In college, I was the only editor-in-chief of the student newspaper not to have an advisor because they said I was being too creative with my ideas. I never saw being too creative as an issue. It inspired me to begin No Limit Agency and continue to deliver innovative campaigns to clients.
If you look at those experiences in detail in a “half-empty” way, those would be considered failures. However, I used it as my fuel to continue fighting for solutions. It’s all in the way you look at the glass. I have come to realize that failure is nothing more than another step toward success. Far too often, we as a society place too much blame on failure. Perhaps this is because we don’t know how to set realistic expectations. Perhaps, this is because the word “perfect” has been ingrained in our mindset since we were children. Regardless, failure is not a bad thing, as long as you use it as a learning exercise.
In business, there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes, and failure is not an option. Rarely do leaders allow wiggle room for mistakes and failures. And I understand why – because we are constantly striving to be perfect.
Throughout my career as an employer, I have embraced mistakes made by my staff, as long as it motivated them to get better – to continue fighting for the light bulb. You cannot train work ethic, commitment, and loyalty, but you can train new methods, processes, and systems to help ensure that same mistake isn’t made in the future. As long as the right attitude is accompanied by the mistake, greatness can still happen.
The next time that you think you failed – or someone else tells you that you made a mistake, look at it as a stepping stone to success. That “half-full” approach will help fuel you to finding your purpose. And don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. The same guy who told Jordan he couldn’t make the team, told Einstein he was dumb for not being able to read, told Disney he wasn’t creative, or told me that I couldn’t write, should take a good look in the mirror. By staring in that mirror, that person might find compassion for the will to succeed. Then this world would promote greatness rather than demote defeat.