Using Failure to Fuel Sucess

You’ve probably noticed the same thing as me.

There is success all around us and, as a society, we love to celebrate success. Think about social media. It’s really just a collection of everyone’s highlight reel sent out into cyberspace hoping to get a little positive affirmation.

We also love a good rags-to-riches success story.

Like J. K. Rowling for example.

She went from living on welfare to becoming the world’s first billionaire author.

We love stories like this because it helps us imagine that one day, if we get lucky, maybe we might become the next rags-to-riches story.

But, what about failure?

We don’t like to think or talk about our failures.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world. Click To Tweet

We fear failure. It’s embarrassing and discouraging when we fail. We feel like a loser in a world where everyone else is winning.

The problem is that failure gets a bad rap. It’s actually more important than success.

Let me explain.

Consider this. Between 2004 and 2006, at the height of auto-maker Toyota’s success, it recalled more vehicles than ever before. They learned the hard way that success leads to complacency.

We need failure.

We need it to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals.

We need failure to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals. Click To Tweet

Even the great J. K. Rowling was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury finally accepted her stories.

Think of this quote that is often attributed to Winston Churchill (although he never actually said it):

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” 

Failure is not the problem.

Our response to failure is. It’s the courage to continue that counts.

I recently had Colonel George Milton on my podcast and we spoke specifically about failure. He took a life of failure and built an amazing career in leadership.

He is a highly decorated combat Army veteran who barely graduated from high school. The story of his early struggles and how it provided fuel for his success is powerful.

He never let failure stop him and he was eventually inducted into the United States Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

Listen in to this episode and learn how to harness the power of failure.

P.S. If you haven’t followed me on Instagram yet, you should. You’ll get a little more “behind the scenes” view of what it’s like to lead a manufacturing business.

The Perfect Pandemic Pivot

I have given several webinars over the past few weeks on leading during a crisis and one of the topics I like to discuss is making a pivot. Once you understand how this pandemic affects your team, your organization, and your industry, you need to chart a new course.

But – and this is really important – you need to stay true to your mission.

If you pivot, you need to stay true to your mission. Click To Tweet

Let me give you an example.

You’ve probably heard of the company, Life is Good.

It’s a lifestyle brand founded in 1994 and is best known for optimistic T-shirts and hats, many of which feature a smiling stick figure named Jake.

It’s probably not surprising to learn their mission is to “spread the power of optimism.”

I’ve watched them make a pivot during this COVID crisis and you can see it too. On the front page of their website, every T-shirt is related to the global pandemic but in a hopeful, optimistic, and positive approach.

For example, you can get a shirt with golden retrievers on a Zoom call or Sasquatch as the social distance world champion.

They call these shirts, “lighthearted tees for uncertain times,” and they are consistent with their mission to spread the power of optimism even in a global pandemic.

You might be thinking, that’s great Jon but I don’t own an optimistic T-shirt company, how can I make a pivot?

Good question!

I recently had Philip Freeman as a guest on my podcast. He is the founder of Murphy’s Naturals, a company that manufactures natural products for outdoor living – think bug repellent. I wanted to have him on the podcast because of the pivot he made in his business.

And…how it was entirely consistent with his mission statement.

Murphy’s Naturals’ mission is to celebrate nature and inspire good through quality natural products. They believe in “doing others good.”

During this pandemic, Philip quickly realized the world desperately needed hand sanitizer and he had the assets and people who could produce this essential product.

So, he and his company made a pivot and began to manufacture hand sanitizer.

But not just for any customer either. Philip’s company ended up becoming a supplier to the U.S. Navy who desperately needed this essential product.

And true to the company’s mission, Murphy’s Naturals’ hand sanitizer is 99.99% natural.

Inspiring good through quality natural products is not just a mission statement in a dusty binder on a shelf for Murphy’s Naturals, it’s something that is lived every day, even in a global pandemic.

A mission statement is something that is lived every day, even in a global pandemic. Click To Tweet

So, what about your organization? What pivot are you considering or have you done already?

More importantly – is it consistent with your mission?

Pivoting in a crisis is important but pivoting with a purpose is absolutely critical to maintaining your company’s authenticity.

The Power of Passion and Perseverance

As we enter our 5th week in quarantine, I’m reminded of the famous motivational posters produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II. The words were simple but the message was powerful:

“Keep Calm and Carry On.”

It’s a great message for all of us today.

The COVID crisis is clearly testing our resolve.

One thing I have noticed though…some people are handling it better than others.

And it got me thinking.

Why do some people thrive while others falter in tough times?

What is it that allows certain individuals to endure the toughest challenges without wavering?

Psychologist Angela Duckworth set out to understand this. She studied cadets at West Point. She wanted to be able to pinpoint the one thing that predicted whether or not a cadet would make it through “Beast Barracks,” the grueling seven-week initiation program.

What she discovered was groundbreaking.

She learned that endurance wasn’t predicted by SAT scores, GPA, athletics, race, gender, or social status. The most important trait for success in difficult times was “grit.”

The most important trait for success in difficult times is grit. Click To Tweet

Duckworth defines grit as “passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement.” It’s about having such a strong passion for your goals that you are willing to withstand any hardship to achieve them.

Someone who exemplifies grit in action is Gretchen Smith. Gretchen is the founder and leader of Code of Vets. Code of Vets is a charity that helps military veterans in crisis.

Gretchen’s passion for veterans and her dogged persistence to overcome countless challenges has led to one of the most powerful grass-roots organizations in the country. She has an army of volunteers who will drop everything to come to the rescue of veterans in need. In her first year in operation, she raised more than $800,000 of which 99% of the donations went directly to veterans.

She is a powerful force for good who leads with passion and persistence. Listen to my interview with her on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership Podcast.

Grit is about having such a strong passion for your goals that you are willing to withstand any hardship to achieve them. Click To Tweet

To support her efforts, especially during this COVID crisis, I recently announced that 100% of the proceeds of the sale of my book, I Have the Watch, will go directly to Code of Vets from April 20-26, 2020.

We did this last year and raised more than $1,000 for this important charity.

So, buy a book and help a Vet! Go to IHAVETHEWATCH.COM to order.

Please share this with all the leaders and future leaders in your circle of influence so we help military veterans during this crisis.

 

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)