Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 31, 2013

The Myth of the Nobility of Failure


I’m a failure.  I’ve had two failed businesses in the past.  I agonized over them.  I lost lots of money trying to build and eventually save them.  I lost sleep over them.  I lost self respect over them.  My failure hurt other people—people who worked for me or whose business my business helped support. 

I learned a great deal from those experiences—although my initial lessons learned were false lessons.

Friends, family, acquaintances, and business “gurus” assured me that my efforts to build something were quite noble and that I really hadn’t failed, I simply came up a bit short of my goal.

I was told that I should take pride in my effort as I was one of the few who had the courage to take the risk–and that itself was a magnificent reward.

I was told that failure wasn’t my fault—I was a victim of the marketplace, seeking to compete against a system that was stacked against the little guy where I could only succeed through luck.

I was told to shrug it off as simply a learning experience; that the only failure was failure to learn.

At the time, I bought into that BS.  Because I wanted to believe it.  Because I didn’t want to admit that I had failed. 

Because I wanted—needed—reassurance that I still had value, that I wasn’t worthless. 

Over time I came to realize a painful truth, one that to some extent is still a bit difficult to admit—I failed.

And there’s nothing noble about failing.

There’s no magnificent reward in failure.

I wasn’t a victim of the system—I failed because I didn’t do the right things.

My failure wasn’t someone else’s fault or the economy’s fault or the “man’s” fault or my employee’s fault.  It rested completely and totally on my shoulders.

While buying into all of the excuses provided me for failing, I believed I had learned a good deal from those failures.

It wasn’t until after I came to the realization that all of those supposed reasons for my failure were nothing other than feel good excuses did I really learn some valuable lessons from my failures.

Only after I was willing to take responsibility for what happened and recognize how I was the architect of my failure did I learn the real lessons to be learned.

We live in an era where there’s a great deal of excuse making for failure.  When you fail there are people everywhere willing to give you a reason why it wasn’t your fault.  In today’s culture—even our business culture—everyone is given the victim excuse.

When you fail—and you will, whether it be big or small—don’t allow yourself the luxury of being fooled by family, friends, and supposed gurus.  They’ll try to make you feel better by letting you off the hook.  It’s an attractive but deceptive lie.  It’s a lie that will prevent you from learning the real lessons to be learned from failure.  It’s a lie that will set you up for further failure.

Rather than falling for the kind lie, face up to the harsh truth of your responsibility for your failure. 

There is no nobility in failure.

You weren’t a victim of anything other than yourself.

Failure isn’t a reward in itself.

Yes, it’s much harder than the alternative.

The weight of that realization is far greater than when others try to lift the weight of failure through their lies.

But the lessons learned will serve you well—and most importantly, wage war against future failure.

 

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4 Comments »

  1. A magnificent article. Good for you. I have lately come to the same kind of conclusions in my own life. It is amazing how many elaborate, comfortable excuses we have for what is truly an “I just blew it” situation. There is a whole culture built on the nobility of failure, as you point out. I’m sure that the only way to counter that destructive culture is one at a time, facing our own failures square on.

    Bravo.

    Comment by kristinzhivago — January 31, 2013 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  2. Have you read the new book, “Failure Is Obsolete” by Benji Rabhan?

    You look at everything you do as an experiment, to see what works or doesn’t work, and test your way to success.

    Comment by Paul Eilers — February 2, 2013 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  3. Although I feel as though there are usually lessons to be learned in failure, the lack of accountability is such a deeper routed issue that is spread throughout this country in so many ways. Government, youth athletics, media etc. People do not have to be accountable for their own actions any more.

    Comment by Ryan Corey — February 4, 2013 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  4. Paul,

    Certainly, there is no shame in failure. Neither should we take pride in the attempt at success.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    Comment by Marc Zazeela — May 6, 2013 @ 1:14 pm | Reply


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