In Part I we looked at what failure is and isn’t. In Part II we looked at how we can sometimes not only be measuring the wrong things, but miss out on better things when we close our minds to possible outcomes. All because we mis-label failure, and tie an event or incident to our personality.
There are a ton of questions that come from a different perspective on failure:
What would happen if we accepted failure as a part of life?
What if we accept that others will fail as well?
What if we could accept our limitations and not feel the need to achieve in other people’s games?
What if I “failed” because I didn’t meet a standard someone else had set, one that I didn’t even want to achieve?
Am I a failure because I’m not a millionaire, or an author, or any other thing that people find their status in? (Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be a millionaire author).
The memes that attempt to make people feel good about failure inadvertently label people as failures if they don’t learn or take something from the experience. What if someone is so shell-shocked they don’t know what they are meant to be learning? What if they can’t see anything positive in the ashes? Are they a failure because they can’t find the silver lining? What if the measure of success set for them isn’t the measure they have for themselves?
The reality is that we all have different goals. Managers want their employees to be concerned with the goals of the company, but what is the investment? Why should someone who earns $10 an hour and lives from paycheck to paycheck have the same investment in corporate goals and stock-prices as the person earning $100k a year? And if the person earning $100k a year is as concerned as the CEO earning $50m a year, what is the actual measure of success? When we join this game our paychecks become more of a compensation for the levels of stress inflicted on us than the work we do, or the value we offer.
Ultimately, if we are looking at our measure of success as being tied to the workplace, we have to wonder if someone is a viewed as a failure because they put provision for their family above the goals of a corporation, or a promotion, or a new title? Sadly I have seen this happen more often than I would like to admit. I’ve also been that manager and become dismayed at how easily my soul died.
Here are today’s three takeaways:
1 – We have different goals. I would be over the moon if I could run 100m in 12 seconds. Usain Bolt would not.
2 – Labeling an individual as a failure because they didn’t learn a lesson from a recent setback does not help. They may have lost the smallest battle of their life on the path to winning a bigger war. An individual with agoraphobia and panic attacks may only walk to the end of their driveway in an attempt to make it to the shop, but failing to meet the goal doesn’t make them a failure.
3 – Whether we learn from an experience or not does not define us as a failure. Whether we have a “winning mindset” or “victim mentality” does not define us a failure. People are not failures. Things fail. Systems fail. Institutions fail. Society fails. People experience.
The next time someone fails at something and they utter the words “I’m a failure” and you helpfully remind them that as long as they are learning, they are not a failure, you are sending a message that one day if they don’t learn they are a failure. Humans are not failures. We get things wrong. We make mistakes. We make bad choices. We experience failure. We are not failures. Ever. No matter what. We are people.
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