Failure is a part of every one’s life. A person who says he has never failed has either never tried to do anything or is a blatant liar. Any successful person will admit he or she had their share of failures. But they became successful because of two reasons: one is they were able to identify their mistakes and correct them by reasoning and second, they had the will to rebound and get back to the task. Failure in life or task can take a person to the extreme of ending ones life, getting into acute depression, abnormal behavior to the extent of becoming anti social and a negative person for life.
The other side of success after seeing failure can be the likes of J K Rowling, the author or Harry Potter. In her own words “You might never fail on the scale I did, but 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 fail by default”. Coming from her has to be true, who penniless, divorced and raising a child on her own wrote her first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter. After getting rejected by twelve publishers and a year later she was given a green signal by Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, who agreed to publish the book but insisted that she take up a day job along side, because there was no money in children’s books. Rest is history, she magically became richer than the Queen of England overnight. What if she had stopped after first or second or third or fourth or……. rejections?
With this background let us take a look into some of the factors leading to failures. There may be more but this can be a part of any of these basic nature of failures.
1. Lack of Conviction: Most of us fail because we lack conviction in what we say or do. The safest option is following a middle road, wherein the option is at the last moment to take a right or left. The danger is getting hit by passing vehicle, which is inevitable. Normally one avoids taking risk of any type.
2. Not learning from past mistakes: Mistake, however small or big is a mistake. Once we know that we have committed a mistake knowingly or unknowingly, and still not correcting or learning from it is a greater mistake. In a way experiences comes after correcting our mistake.
3. Lack of persistence : It should be remembered that people fail not because of lack of knowledge or skills, but because they quit. In every walk of life we need to have persistence, in attempting something and what has to be done. Quitting for whatever reason will not lead to any goal. Another thing to remember in persistence is resisting what ought not be done, as this will be a diversion from our Goal.
4. Lack of Discipline :Not being focused on what we are doing. Any body who achieves something is purely by following discipline. Self-discipline in all areas like time, focus and keeping away from distractions and temptations are key factors.
5. Rationalizing : Let us not rationalize our failures. To achieve something what we require is analyzing and not finding excuses why did we not succeed. The moment we start rationalizing our mistakes we take the liberty of getting back to our comfort zone to leave and let alone. A very important factor which we have to keep in mind is our strength, we try to do everything which we think will be taking us to moon, without thinking whether we have the ability.
6. Poor self-esteem : A bit philosophical. People with poor self esteem always are trying to find out about themselves rather then trying for what they want to be. This leads to not knowing one’s own strengths and self worth, and this makes a person underestimate his capability.
7. Fatalistic Attitude : The attitude of whatever has to happen will happen anyway.This take us away from accepting responsibility for our position in life. For us success and failures are due to fate or luck. They stop putting effort the moment they perceive negative result and go back to rationalization.
Once we find out the cause the solution for the problem is found in itself. If we start probing each aspect of failure mentioned above the solution can be found as following :
1. Decide what is important for you: However mundane the work let us show our passion in the work and put our best effort. Let us not get carried away by what is seemingly important to us or what is projected important to us. We have to be a part of the team for success but not at the cost of compromising our values. You decide and take huge steps everyday even though it doesn’t seem like it’s working. At some point and some time small risk has to be taken to get desired result. Treading too cautiously only leads to loosing out on competition or not reaching the goal sometimes.
2. Clearly define problem: By analyzing the problem it will be easier to achieve what we want. Analyze why it did not work. We have to see whether we are looking at the problem correctly. For example, if we want more money at our disposal the only way is not by trying to increase our revenue but the alternative of cutting down the expenditure.
3. Try new approaches : Persisting on the same failed attempts for approach towards the goal is not going to yield any positive result. We have to think out of the box and make change in our course of action by looking into unsuccessful efforts what changes to make out of it. * Swami Vivekananda gives an example of the bees which gets attracted towards the honey, the moment they touch down on the honey and stat tasting they get stuck most of them die in the honey itself trying to get away from it.
4. Don’t try to be perfectionist : Most of us have an idealized version of our success, how it will look or feel like. This can be good motivator but it may not be realistic. Succeeding in one goal is not a confirmed ticket for our future endeavors, and is also not a solution for our future problems. Being clear on our objectives and not getting obsessed with few superficial details will be of great help.
5. Change your perspective : Very few people succeed at whatever they do first time every time. Most of us achieve our goal or result after repeated efforts, after correction and re-correction. Looking at what happened and why, will make our effort more fruitful. Never treat the unsuccessful attempt as failure. We have to understand what our Strengths are, and put our efforts in developing on our strength rather than experimenting on lot of other areas, which we think is good for us or what has to been told to us as good for us. A good example is given by Mr. Azim Premji in one of his lectures about a rabbit which joins a school of skill development along with other animals. After the exam the results says rabbit has got A+ in hopping but failed in swimming. So the rabbit’s parent decides to put the rabbit in swimming classes, in the process the rabbit get engrossed in swimming class. Next exam when the result comes the rabbit gets fail in swimming as well as hopping. The moral is we should know our strength and develop on it instead of wasting our time on getting into things which are not our strength.
6. Don’t Label Yourself : Let us not stamp ourselves failure just by few failed attempts. Let’s think ourselves as a horse for long haul, striving towards our goal with more vigor and perseverance.Thomas Edison who was labeled dumb and scatter brain by his school teachers, went on to become one of the world’s greatest inventors and founded General Electric; one of the most powerful companies in the world. According to him “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”.
7. Look in the mirror and say ‘I am Change’: We may not have total control on our life, but we have more control on ourselves then we think. To quote Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swami of Shringeri “The responsibility of failure is solely on the person who is attempting to do something. He cannot escape it by blaming fate, for fate is of his own making, nor by blaming god, for he is but the dispenser of fruits in accordance with the merits of actions. We are maker of our own destiny. It is for us to make it , to better it or to mar it. This is our privilege, this is our responsibility”.
It may be said sometimes the external factors do contribute for our failures, but this is not the case always. If it is unknown factor or sudden factor like natural calamity or sudden govt. policy it is temporary and it can be overcome in due course. But the external factors which are known has to be there has to be taken into account before getting into the task. As in such cases our short term planning may be the cause, without taking into account the long term problem arising out of it.
Swami Vivekananda gives a wonderful reason for failure and that is we pay more attention to the end then the means of work. He says the greatest lesson he learnt in his life is to pay as much attention to the means of the work as to its end. He says with the means all right, the end must come right.
Let us look into these motivating example of Richard Branson, started his business venture with Virgin Cola which failed miserably, the next venture of Virgin Credit Card was a bigger failure. He lost hundreds of millions of dollars, but he did not stop there, his next venture Virgin Airlines gave him what he is today not giving any hint of his earlier failures. Today apart from the most profitable airline venture he owns a private island which he rents for $53,000 a night. Another example is Colonel Sanders who started his dream at 65 who got a social security check of $105, instead of complaining he thought of selling the recipe of fried chicken by driving around the country knocking on the doors of the restaurant owners, sleeping in his car wearing his white suit. He got 1009 big NO from the people till his first YES and the rest is history. Today KFC is the ruling brand.
To summarize, failure is the key to success. Failing is not the end, but not learning form it and not correcting one self indeed leads to a bitter end. Success doesn’t happen without failures,and that’s reality.
The concept is consolidated by taking tips from Shiv Khera’s Book “you can win”
Prof. Krishnan R