Failing Forwards

Do you consider 2020 to have been a failure? Before the start of this year, I heard about many organisations making plans for 2020. Many were playing on the term ‘2020 vision’. But one thing is for sure, none of us thought we would see what we have seen this year. The way you look at 2020 will decide whether it was a failure or an opportunity or both.

As you look back over 2020 and the challenges it brought, I wonder if you are looking back hoping some things will never happen again? Or did something come out of it that changed your trajectory and helped you attempt something you would not have otherwise tried?

Someone once said “necessity is the mother of invention.”

The necessity of a vaccine has produced unprecedented invention as different companies have raced to produce one. New methods have been tried and new ways of working and living have also appeared.

Yet, for some reason, we fear failure. I think it is drummed into us at school. When you look at most of the inventions that we work with and use every day, including the vaccine, the people who invented them failed many times before they got to something that worked.

I started a new business this year. I wasn’t planning on a pandemic as I launched and it has been a tough year. Yet as I look back I have attempted at least two things I have never done before: I wrote, filmed and launched an online course on resilience (we all need that at the moment!). And I have written a book yet to be published (watch this space). As you look back over this year what have you done that you would not have otherwise attempted?

Failure is the result of stepping into the ring and saying I am going to try this and see what happens. Most things don’t work the first time. So, take the posture of a learner and learn what you can from it and iterate until you get where you need to be. You don’t fail until you give up. Everything else is the gold found in learning. On average entrepreneurs fail in business 3.8 times before they succeed.

As Winston Churchill once said: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

If you want something badly enough you keep going holding tightly to your enthusiasm. How many times did the Wright brothers crash before they managed to get their ‘airplane’ in the air? Edison is said to have found 10,000 ways not to make the incandescent light bulb. He may have invented lots of other things on the way, but his goal was to create sustainable light and he kept going until he achieved it.

As you approach 2021, you may be bruised from 2020, even a little depressed. Just stop for a minute and think about two things you have learnt about yourself, your work, your life that you think ‘actually that would not have happened without this adversity’. Opportunity and success live on the other side of the fear of failure. Face your fears and take one step at a time towards your desired future. You don’t fail until you give up, everything else is learning.

The trick is to fail forwards. Learning from what didn’t work and tweaking, experimenting until you have what you need that will solve the problem you started with.

I will leave you with the words of John Maxwell:

“Embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you\’re not failing, you\’re probably not really moving forward.”

Happy New Year. Stay Safe.

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Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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