Before writing this article I decided to take a quick look back through the 1,140 or so articles on this blog to see how many times I used the word “failure”. It seems I’ve only used it 28 times ever, and as it regards the concept of actually failing, only once, and that’s if I don’t count a short article I wrote in 2006 titled Another F-Word Needs To Be Eliminated.

YIP Day 70 - More Few
Auntie P via Compfight

I love listening to motivational videos on YouTube. Heck, I’ve created one or two myself. Many of them talk about all the failures people had on the way to success.

Frankly, I’ve never responded well to that word. I tend to believe that words carry connotations that sometimes can’t be overcome just because someone decides to use it in a different way. For instance, back in the 70’s, drugs were called “dope”, yet that never overrode the belief that people who took drugs were dopes. Notice they don’t use that word anymore.

A guy I like a lot is Neil deGrasse Tyson. In one of his presentations on YouTube he talked about Edison and other scientists and how none of them failed at anything, even though many motivational speakers use that term when talking about Edison. What he said was that, as scientists, what they all do is experiment. They test things over and over, not only to see if they can get it right but to see if they can reproduce results they got before.

Another presentation I watched was by Steve Wozniak, who helped Steve Jobs build the first personal PCs. He said that as someone who wrote code, he’s write some of it, then test it out to see if it worked or what it did before pushing forward. If it didn’t work he wrote it a different way, and if it did he tested it by throwing in other things to see if his code would support moving forward. He does talk about failure, but the failure of products to sell because they weren’t initially great, things that were corrected with time via more experimentation.

When I look back on my life, I have to ask myself how many times did I actually fail. Mistakes; I made plenty. But how often did I fail, and why?

Back in 2011 I wrote a post on this blog titled The Biggest Cause Of Leadership Failure in response to what someone else said and I stated in that post that I thought the biggest failure was ignorance. Ignorance doesn’t mean stupidity; it means you haven’t learned what you need to learn to overcome things you might have erred on. If you learn from those lessons, and continue trying to learn, then you remove ignorance and, in retrospect, you didn’t fail; you experimented.

Back to myself; where have I possibly failed in life? I’ll start with business. I’ve lost 3 jobs in my life, which is why I eventually decided to go into business for myself. I lost all 3 jobs for reasons that ended up having nothing to do with me; one of those I didn’t take very well for years. And yet, those jobs helped make me ready to try to do things on my own, and in June I’ll have been in business for myself for 13 years; experiments.

When I wrote my book Embrace The Lead, I sent it out to multiple publishers and got turned down 63 times. So I self published, got lots of copies, and sold a lot of them at speaking engagements. I’ve sold some of the paperback copies via my website, and I still sell a book here and there as a pdf. I also learned why no one would pick it up (you need a title; stupid! lol) and how you’re supposed to market yourself to potential publishers, though I decided to go my own way later on. I made my money back and still have books to sell; experiments.

In my personal life, I’d say the only real failure I’ve had comes to my diet and exercise. I know what to do for both, have done them and had great results, but I didn’t keep them up. Same goes for my medication; I’m always forgetting to take it. In these cases I’ve learned a lot, but for whatever reason I won’t follow through. Here I must acknowledge failure because the experiments have already been conducted and I know what works and what doesn’t. Oh well, no one’s perfect.

How do you judge your life based on this criteria? Do you see yourself as a consistent failure, or someone who’s learned lessons from bad things and have used them to improve your lot in life? And do you believe a shift in terminology can carry as much weight as I do, or am I just being a bit too sensitive? Let me know, and enjoy your week.
 

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