What is failureship? The Urban Dictionary defines it as: “noun. the ability to fail, especially when in a position of authority and/or control of a group, and to have that failure spread to others. e.g.: the failureship of the board of directors brought down the hard work of everyone else.”
Quite simply failureship may be defined as our relationship to failure. In this definition, failure sucks. It lets down those who depend on us to feed their families, it’s the kind of failure that keeps leaders up night after night. But it’s a strange way to look at failure, especially since so many highly respected and successful people have quoted failure as absolutely essential to success.
What does failure mean to you? What do you see failure reflecting about yourself or others? Let’s talk about failure. It’s making a revival in all of the self help posts, memes, books and guru talks, even though many of these quotes, which stress failure as indispensable, have come from long ago. Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Sir Winston Churchill agreed, saying “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”. So then, how do leaders risk failure in the face of letting down everyone who depends on them? While they may initially not seem related to leadership, I’ve got a few tips.
1. Pay attention to your social media feed. Social media relies on algorithms to push information to you. It may sound like a conspiracy theory but I actually studied this as part of a professional communications program last year at Royal Roads University. What eventually occurs through the algorithms is a type of cyber-tunnel-vision, when beliefs reinforce beliefs until there is no other choice other than to be right. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia explains “in psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.”.
We all love to be right. I emphasize being right does not naturally support personal and professional development or performance.
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” - Thomas A. Edison
2. Beware of keeping up with the Jones’. Notice when the biggest TV seems like a must, when you just gotta have the newest device, when it’s always the next, the next, the next. These are external motivators. What’s wrong with external motivators? Nothing, depending where they lead to. Does that external motivator lead to fulfillment, or your version of success, or does it lead to addiction or abuse? To me, internal motivators are the way to go but they do have a couple requirements: a clear view of the bigger picture and being OK with failure. We get way too caught up in small failures, and when I say we I mean me as well!
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan
3. Tune into your culture. Notice what it tells you and what it doesn’t. What you have learned may not necessarily be right. In the 1998 film ‘The Waterboy’, Adam Sandler plays Bobby Boucher Jr., a simple man raised by his overprotective mother played by the legendary Kathy Bates. In the film, Bobby miraculously attends college on a football scholarship, much to the chagrin of his dear momma. One day in class, Bobby defies his professor’s claim that alligators are ornery due to an enlarged medulla oblongata. Instead he argues with the professor, who closely resembles Colonel Sanders, that “momma says alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth and no tooth brush”. I’ll bet that in 30-40 years from now most everything you currently know to be right, or true, will be considered bullshit, and we’ll all have a good laugh about it.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” - J.K. Rowling
4. Experience suffering (as you perceive it). You should find that it doesn’t have to feel like suffering at all. In fact, I assert you were most likely the happiest when you drove an AMC Gremlin loaded with your seven bestest friends, the days when you pooled together your nickels and dimes to share a ¼-pounder at 3 am. In todays standards that is suffering, or at least stupid. If your standards from back in the Gremlin days tell you that you are now an utterly ridiculous, stress-case, worrywart, then you probably are. You were in your purer essence then, without a care or fear in the world. Some of my most treasured memories are from brutal endurance races, ruthless military deployments, times when I didn’t have a dime and drove $300 rust bucket Ford pickup.
“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” – Buddha
5. Experience the world in Technicolor. What I mean by this is to be in love, or at least practice being in love with the process, with the experience of living, and not with the result. Goals are fine, just beware of missing the journey. After all, we are human beings, not human doings. Stop and smell the roses, feel the sand squish between your toes, listen to a child. Those will be your most treasured memories one day soon.
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failing is another steppingstone to greatness.” - Oprah Winfrey
These five practices will have you living a life which is different that your current life which, unless you’re a psycho, will cause initial discomfort, fear and potentially some chaos. If you keep to the practices they will eventually become more natural. Humans are funny, we are more resilient as children but still able to change at any age, regardless of circumstance. There will be circumstances that will get in the way, in which case you have some choices to make. You can fully own your circumstance, you can blame it all on others, society, etc. or you can choose to do something about it! Only you have the power to choose. I sincerely wish you happiness, success and, of course, also your greatest of failures in the new year!
“We are all failures - at least the best of us are.” - J.M. Barrie