13 is an unlucky number in many cultures. If you are of the superstitious disposition, then 2013 may not seem like the best possible year for you. Rather than spending twelve whole months avoiding black cats or trying not to walk under ladders why not accept that you will get you share of bad luck in the coming year. Indeed, it might even be better to take a proactive approach. Go looking for as many failures as possible. This could be the fastest route to success. Ask Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan on success and failure
Even if you know next to nothing about basketball you have probably still heard of Michael Jordan. According to the official National Basketball Association website, he is:
“By acclamation…the greatest basketball player of all time.”
The number of awards won and records set would be too long to outline here and yet when the man himself talked about his own career he had a much different vision of success.
Success then to Michael Jordan is an accumulation of mistakes and failures. Winning comes from failing over and over again but having the courage and the strength of mind to continue.
Science: failure is the road to success
This all sounds rather counter intuitive. When you start a project or experiment or play a game of any kind there is a natural tendency to want to succeed. And yet, in the so called ‘hard’ sciences (chemistry, physics etc.) this attitude would not come as such a surprise. Most inventions and discoveries come out of a series of trial and error experiments which can be painstakingly long. Each error, failure or mistake is recorded and then the scientist will continue his work. Indeed, scientists will state that these are not mistakes but way of eliminating possibilities as they move towards the truth.
Bestselling Christmas presents in 2012
In social sciences we tend not to be quite so generous with failure and nowhere is this more so than in business. There is nothing quite so satisfying as pouring over a case study to analyze the errors and shortcomings of failed businesses. It is so easy to do after the event. However, failed projects, like in the hard sciences may be the necessary road to success.
Forbes’ list of “2012’s Top Christmas Gifts” is another list of Apple (and Amazon) products. Apple’s early failures are now legendary. If you are one of the millions of people who now have an iPod, iPad, Mac or the 2012 Christmas favorite, the Mini iPad, you will be pleased to know that such gadgets are the results of failed products such as the Apple III, Lisa and the classy Pwer Mac Spartacus ($7 500 and delivered to each customer in a limousine!) Steve Jobs was prepared to try new ideas and the results is those cute little gadgets that so many of us treasure today. Without such mistakes, the i-collection might never have existed.
Woody Allen says that:
“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
Allen has been involved in over 40 films as a screenwriter, director, actor, comedian and author. He is even a respected jazz clarinetist. Not a bad little career.
Not succeeding is not the same as not really trying
Of course, there is a big difference between not succeeding in the short term having made every possible effort and not trying in the first place. Anyone can fail an exam by not working for it. It takes real courage to totally commit to something with the risk of linked to its failure and being slightly embarrassed when things clearly didn’t work.
Interestingly, Jordan can actually give the statistics for the number of times he ‘failed’. Those ‘failures’ matter and should be quantified because they are part of the learning process. Have no doubt, all of those errors will have been analyzed and discussed so that they could be corrected for the following match. It is not just about failing, it is about learning from it and moving on. The legendary American golfer Tom Watson once said that:
“The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”
Any salesperson will tell you much the same thing. It is just a question of No to Yes ratios. If you want more customers to say “Yes” (i.e. buy your product or service) you have to go looking for more “No’s”.
Make 2013 “A year of failure”
So make this year a year of failure. Try something new and innovative and, like Michael Jordan count the number of times that you failed. Take some time to analyze why things didn’t work out and how you can make improvements for the future. With enough failures, mistakes and errors you may find that this time next year you have become incredibly good at what you are doing. Your failures will have led you to success.
I wish you a very happy and healthy 2013.
Rejection is everywhere: we break up, we get fired, we lose friends—and we survive them all—yet, when our art is rejected, many feel completely defeated, and they never get out there again. This saddens me. This is how art dies. Rejection happens to everyone, and, if it hasn’t already, it will happen to you—but you cannot let criticism get you down.