Failure is defined as "falling short of hitting the target." What if you couldn’t fail? How differently might you approach
challenging situations if you knew you could be successful?
To look at "failure" we need to look at two aspects. First, the targets we set and second, our definition of success. For
example, I’m a retailer who sets a sales target of 10 widgets. I only sell 9. Am I a failure or did I succeed 9 times and run out of time? To get one sale I may have had to speak to 10 people. If my product did not meet the needs of 9 of these people I spoke to, did I fail? Was each "no" a failure or a stepping stone to success?
Baseball, and especially last year’s homerun quest by Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa is a great example of failure. Both
these men swung at the ball and missed it or hit it the wrong way about 100 times more often than they hit it the way they wanted. The average "professional" baseball player who earns $1 million per year fails to get on base 75% of the time. Seven times out of ten at bats, he walks back to the dugout having been unsuccessful at his job. Or was he? Baseball is a game of statistics and so is life.
If we take one, two, three or ten setbacks as evidence of failure, how would we progress? Thomas Edison is known to have tried to create the electric light bulb more than 1000 different ways. One of his financial backers is said to have asked, "Tom, why don’t you quit? Can’t you see this idea of yours is a failure?" Edison’s response was, "Every time it did not work I got feedback on how to make it better. I have now eliminated 1000 ways it does not work and I get closer and closer to success." Every failure moved him toward to his goal.
Thomas Edison, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, all had one thing in common. They looked at their results as feedback which helped them adjust their actions and move toward greater and greater chances for success. They learned from their mistakes. They took missing the mark as feedback to fine-tune their efforts until the results matched their target.
Many of us are easily dissuaded and discouraged by not succeeding the first time we try something new. The learning
experience of "falling short of hitting the target" can bruise the ego. The projected pain of not looking good or feeling inadequate has stopped many efforts to even try to hit the mark.
Why not turn a missed target into a new learning opportunity? Step back from the situation and ask yourself, "What adjustments would bring me closer to my target?" Keep your eye on the ball and keep swinging!
Thank goodness Thomas Edison kept trying and did not quit when he fell short of hitting the target in his early attempts to create the electric light bulb. Otherwise I might have had to write this by