A while ago I was working my way through a process of sales optimization for a client, it’s the first time we’d done it and we had 30 days to deliver. As myself and a colleague were scratching our heads over one specific issue, a salesman rang me offering his services in a similar area.
The salesman (we’ll call him Bob), went through the necessary steps … cordial greeting, demonstrated he had done some research about us and delivered a compelling script designed to showcase their skills and allow me to imagine the painfree world of working with them. I was impressed.
When it came to the close, he said confidently (I do love the assumptive close): “Mr Swain, since you are in the market for our skills and have agreed we have the necessary credentials to fulfil your needs, can I go ahead and schedule a meeting with one of our technical teams to start the ball rolling?”
I thanked him for his time, congratulated him on a great pitch and informed him we wouldn’t be going ahead with his proposal as we knew how to do this ourselves. He was momentarily confused and then asked genuinely how I could confidently say we knew how to do this when we were clearly not experts at it.
My response was something I still live by: “I’m comfortable with failure which means my success becomes inevitable”
This is a key differentiator in those that are successful and those that aren’t. Be comfortable with failure. Embrace it. Even celebrate it. Success is not a process, it is an end result. Unsurprisingly, it’s the end result of a metric ton of failure.
The evidence is all around us. Ask Edison. Ask Musk. Ask any Salesman how many times they “fail” before they “succeed”. Hell, ask anyone you know that is a parent how their child learned to walk … the answer is that they fell over 1,000 times or more, constantly failing, constantly looking for feedback.
The example of a child learning to walk is useful as it illustrates the role of the support party (in this case the parent) in the process of success. Simply put, when a parent congratulates a child for falling, both parties get a release of dopamine (the pleasure drug in our brains). The child then links the process of trying to walk with the release of dopamine and therefore continues to try.
Sadly we forget this as we get older as society, exams and unreasonable managers focus on the end results vs the process to get there. We read management books, attend seminars and work on our leadership style. All well and good, but instead learn to congratulate yourself, get comfortable with the process and surround yourself with people happy to congratulate you on what you did vs what you achieved? Re-establishing a positive relationship with failure is perhaps the one key mindset shift that will set you free.
Walt Disney was told he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’, Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first standup, JK Rowling was rejected dozens of times, Richard Branson has had over 15 companies fold into administration and we all know Edison took 10,000 attempts to make a working lightbulb.
My advice is therefore go out and fail. Do it in glorious technicolor with surround sound. Once you’re done failing, examine what happened without ego or emotion and plan your v2. Then fail again.
If you can iterate through failure without ego or emotion, success becomes the only inevitable outcome.