The Power of Failure

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Failure is one of the most dreaded words in the English language. The very idea of failing is enough to stop most people in their tracks. It can cause the majority to simply pack up, turn around and retreat without even trying. Yet it is through seeming failure that most of life’s greatest successes are achieved.failure

One common error we all make, which has serious consequences as we grow older, is the belief that failure is the opposite of success. Intellectually, we know better, but emotionally we often fail to act on what we know to be true when it comes to ourselves.

I just finished re-reading the Colonel Sanders story for the 4th time. You know the man – founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  According to his 1974 autobiography, before Harland Sanders became a world-famous Colonel, he was a sixth-grade dropout, a farmhand, an army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an insurance salesman, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, an (unsuccessful) political candidate, a gas station operator, a motel operator and finally, a restaurateur.

At the age of 65, a new interstate highway snatched the traffic away from his Corbin, Ky., restaurant and Sanders was left with nothing but a Social Security check and a secret recipe for fried chicken.

As it turned out, that was all he needed.

Coming up with good ideas is easy. This includes ideas for new websites or strategies. Anybody can generate good ideas. The real value is having the ability and tenacity to see it implemented. Part of implementing an idea is making it more concrete, such as by creating a design doc or business plan. A structured document is more than an idea — it’s part of the implementation process. This is where you begin working out the practical details. If you do it correctly, it also creates a lot of value.

Back to the Colonel – His success came later than any would have imagined, but it was the fact they he knew failure that positioned him for success. He learned how to leverage failure to glean the lessons of failure. The greatest lesson of which was not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

So herein lies the leadership lesson – have you harnessed the power of failure? Have you listened closely enough not to repeat the mistakes of the past?

If you have, failure waits on the sidelines for you to succeed!

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After 20 years of progressive leadership within the Canadian Public Service, as an executive and thought leader, Bruce has turned his attention to full time writing, speaking, training and business advisory services. Focusing his work on his long term passion for leadership development, has led to an ongoing focus on exploring current leadership topics through his leadership blog TheModernLeader.ca, and his newly released book - Leadership Hack: Leading the Millennial Tribe. Bruce holds two masters degrees, along with a professional designation in project management. Bruce calls Ottawa, Ontario Canada home, where he shares his life with his wife Susan, and his two university aged daughters.

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