Ashley Merryman wrote a great op-ed in the New York Times explaining why “Losing Is Good for You,” and she gave an interesting label for the excessive trophies in school sports, calling the system “The Trophy-Industrial Complex.” She says if kids get trophies just for participation and are rewarded for simply showing up rather than for accomplishments, they’ll end up being underachievers. I agree since I have seen it firsthand when my boys used to play Little League baseball. During the games when the kids where small, all the adults tried to encourage the children not to focus on the score but think about how much fun they were having and their effort. This was silly. Every kid knew the score! It is important for children to know what it feels like to win and lose (and what to do in each case).
Of course, no one likes to fail, and like anyone else in business, my experiences have been both positive and negative: I have successfully worked for companies and have built and sold my own businesses, but I’ve also been fired, gone out of business, and have seen sales plummet. It’s a horrible feeling to see all of your hard work crumble. And sometimes there isn’t anything to learn. You just have to feel bad about it and move on.
There aren’t a lot of underachievers in business, especially when someone has to work night and day to grow a company, but failure is inevitable. It just is. Sometime you can learn from failure and sometimes it just stinks. The most important thing is to let go of success and failure and keep moving toward your goal.
Failure is part of the business cycle, and we have to learn to recognize, accept, and embrace it as part of doing business. The “trophies” may be money, valuable connections, or happiness, and we can’t expect to consistently win them all. Instead, when we do experience loss, it gives us a chance to focus, be humble, learn what we can, then let go to take another action that will propel us to success.
What are your experiences with failure? Let me know in the comments below.