Oxymoron: a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction that makes sense.
Is this “successful failure,” an oxymoron?
Let’s start by acknowledging that no one wants to fail. Failure is associated with losers. We all hunger for success—in all walks of our lives. We associate success with winners. No one wants to be labeled as a loser. Instead, everyone wants to be identified as a winner.
So, what is this about launching a successful failure? This notion certainly appears oxymoronic. How can we be successful if we’ve failed at something—anything? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d admit that we’ve failed somewhere along the path. One cannot go through life without experiencing failure—many failures. To fail does not mean that one is a failure, a loser who will not taste success.
Consider for a moment that failure can be a good thing. Failure suggests we’ve stretched beyond our breaking point—exceeded our capabilities or made a faux pas (that we can learn from and capitalize upon to blossom success). We haven’t been complacent. Complacency leads to inertia, which can lead to “passive failure.” Life and the world of competitors are sure to overtake us if we are complacent. Stretching and trying new things are essential ingredients to our development, growth, and ability to compete effectively.
Now, if we find ourselves failing, we need to make it a “successful failure.” First, we need to fail quickly. I’m not suggesting that we give up. Instead, we need to promptly recognize the error of our ways and/or our situation and take decisive action immediately. We must acknowledge the need to do things better, or different, or take a totally new direction, to score success. Failing quickly provides us with the time to take additional shots on goal to score and win big if not in the present moment and situation, a future moment and situation.
Second, we need to learn from our failures to avoid making the same mistake twice. That’s dumb, and we’re not dumb! Make the same mistake three times? Well, that’s stupid. We’ve struck out! We need to thoughtfully analyze where and how things went wrong so we can avoid being dumb or, worse yet, stupid. Our analysis requires clear expectations of causal factors and that we conduct a thorough debrief to inspect what we expected. That’s smart, and we’re smart!
Third, we need to “fail forward.” Our failures should not be all-encompassing—a complete breakdown. What I mean is that we need to exact a capability, or learning, that leaves us better off than when we first started so we are better prepared for future endeavors. For example, a company launches a product in an area that’s new to them for which they plan to have other, more significant entries in the future. The first product fails, but the company has built a sales force and established relationships with customers to build upon and thereby launch future successes.
No, successful failure may appear to be oxymoronic. However, it is an essential practice in our march to success. It’s making lemonade out of lemons.
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Stay SAFE, and be well.
Peace and best wishes,