Tag Archives: Failure

Beyond the Bulletproof Image – How Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong

 

dandelion withstanding the elements outside representing a bulletproof imageI can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid.  Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet.  Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.

On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together.  They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection.  And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success.  Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.

I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.

The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.”  In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings.  We all make mistakes.  We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for.  These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.

Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years.  Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach.  Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure.  If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.

So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible.  First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you.  When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights.  The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated. 

Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of.  Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives.  And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


First Name:

Last name:

Email:








The Fallacy of Failure

a young boy crouched on a floor with the shadow showing arms raised in triumph over the fallacy of failure

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

~ Robert H. Schuller

I have come across the above quote often and pondered it reflectively.  It inspires me to think big – contemplating all the many things I have dreamed of creating or being a part of.  I often feel compelled to make a list – and have done so many times.  I encourage my clients to do this as well.  But the most interesting and show stopping part of that quote for me is the idea of “failure”.

It’s easy to think of shooting for the moon when the idea of crashing down to the ground doesn’t enter the picture.  We can dream and scheme all we want, but in order to make our dreams real, we must take action.  And when we do, this idea of failure seems to have a way of creeping in despite our best attempts to move forward in spite of it.

Failure means different things to different people.  But I think the most debilitating thing about the idea of failure is having to experience or endure some kind of pain – pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin – not to mention its actual physical variations.

The interesting thing to me about pain is that – thankfully – it is usually finite.  It comes and it goes.  And while we don’t always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to play a part in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.

As a kid, getting immunizations was terrifying. I remember how worked up I would get before the needle even came close to my skin.  And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing – even screaming or wailing before contact is ever actually made.  But a few seconds later, the injections are completed before the kids even realize it.  They get off the exam table and immediately go onto other things – except perhaps when one of them needs a little more sympathy and deliberately focuses on the site of the shot and the blood on the bandage – prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needs to be.

I think we do the same thing when we contemplate the pain that accompanies what we believe would be “failure”.  Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality.  And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it really needs to be.  But we can also exercise resilience and determination in our ability to bounce back and focus on something that will allow us to move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.

Because what it really comes down to is what your experience – regardless of the way it turns out – has given you, rather than cost you.  People who have accomplished extraordinary things in the world are the first to tell you that what many refer to as “failure” has plagued them time after time – and many will tell you those experiences were prerequisites for their success.  What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they picked themselves up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward armed with a new awareness, a new understanding, and a renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.

I think we all need a shot from time to time.  A shot of humility, compassion – and humor.  A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before. What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?

For more on the fallacy of failure, check out Seth Godin’s post on How to Fail.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


First Name:

Last name:

Email:








Bouncing Back: Perseverance Personified

“The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure.  These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”        ~ Vince Lombardi

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.”   Thomas Edison said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  These words of wisdom lead me to ponder even the definitions of the words “success” and “failure“.  Perhaps they are nothing more than labels we use for experiences that could very well be integral stepping stones for the people having them.  Both words are laden with judgment, leading us to want to move toward one and away from the other.  But what if they are simply two sides of the same coin?

Consider the following events in each of these people’s lives:

  • It has been said that Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections.
  •  Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper who felt he lacked creative ideas.
  •  As a boy, Thomas Edison was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.
  •  Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda, was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota.
  •  Before becoming a successful actor, John Wayne was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.
  •  Lucille Ball was dismissed by drama school with a note that read “Wasting her time… she’s too shy to put her best foot forward.”
  •  Steven Spielberg unsuccessfully applied to film school three separate times.
  •  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  •  Baseball legend Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.
  •  The first novel of best-selling novelist John Grisham was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.
  •  Robert M. Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers before it was published in 1974 and went on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.
  • The Beatles were turned down by the Deca recording company, who said “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on its way out.”

This list could go on and on.   What each of these people have in common is that they didn’t let labels like “success” or “failure” define who they are.  They didn’t allow the events in their lives (or their thoughts and judgments about them) to get in the way of their dreams or their beliefs in what they were capable of – and what was possible.  And their courage, perseverance and determination benefitted not just themselves, but countless others – many of whom came generations later.

I came across another great quote by a woman named Susan Taylor who said, “Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”  If this is true, perhaps what some call “failure” is actually a catalyst – or even a prerequisite –  for what others call “success.” 

What is going on in your life right now?  What if it is exactly what you need to experience in order to get where you most want to go?

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy other articles written about Navigating Through Change, Challenge & Uncertainty Download these and others for free at www.DianeBolden.com/solutions.  While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.  Also, check out Seth Rodin’s blog post on How to Fail.