If you want to succeed you need to fail

The Super Bowl is this weekend and at the end you’ll have one team and its fans celebrating while the other commiserates over what might have been.

If you’re trying to learn how to succeed, it’s more instructive to watch the losers and how they react.

The tough lessons, the ones that ultimately lead to success, are only learned through failure. Michael Jordan, the sports icon of icons in the 1980s and 1990s, had a Nike commercial that focused on failure. Jordan noted he’d missed more than 9,000 shots in his career, lost 300 games and missed a game-winning shot attempt 26 times. The lesson was it took countless failures for him to develop a championship game.

Sports is not always a perfect comparison for business. Many are zero-sum games. There is a winner and a loser. In business, there are lots of levels of success. There is only one Google, but there are lots of businesses that provide a good living for its owner and employees.

Still, building a business even to that level of success means taking some chances and some of those won’t go so well. If you don’t enjoy the struggle then you won’t stick with it long enough. Nicolas Cole (@Nicolascole77) had a good piece about failure for Inc.com. Here are his “6 Important Life Lessons You Can Only Learn Through Failure.

  1. You can’t learn responsibility until you see the effects of your negligence. Your name is your brand in business and when you let someone down you see how much it hurts your value.
  2. You can’t learn patience until you’re forced to be patient with someone else. When you lose your patience with someone it means you’ve run out of mental energy to keep listening. Business is a marathon not a track meet. You need to develop the discipline to keep the conversation going.
  3. You won’t learn the impact you have as a business owner until you have to let someone go. When you fire someone it’s really your failure. Either this person was never cut out for the job you gave them or at some point you stopped motivating them to do their best.
  4. You can’t improve what you don’t personally understand. It’s easy to call in consultants and it’s good to seek professionals. But if there’s something wrong with your business, you need to get in there and learn what it is or else it’s going to keep happening.
  5. You can’t rely on someone else until you can first rely on yourself. There are lots of variations on this sentence. One of my favorites is that I’ll never ask more of someone else than I ask of myself. That’s leadership.
  6. You won’t know your full potential until you’ve been pushed past the point of failure. When watching the Big Game this week, look for the players who run to the ball on every play regardless if they are in the action. There are dozens of situations in every contest where a player appears to be lucky. They aren’t lucky really. They just put themselves in position time and time again to make a play. That’s the same habit you need to develop in your professional career. Make one more call. Make one more stop. Check your processes one more time. Go to one more event. The next whatever it is may be your big break.

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