The author Arthur Gordon once approached Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM and asked him how he could succeed faster.
Watson replied with these profound words; “If you want to be successful faster, you must double the rate of failure. Success lies on the far side of failure”.
When I analyse the words spoken by Mr. Watson, I come to a conclusion that before you succeed in anything that you do, you are likely to pass through a series of failures. In other words as you strive to achieve success, you can easily make mistakes or fall down completely.
Leadership expert Peter Drucker says, “The better a man is the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote to a top-level a man who was not making mistakes otherwise I am sure he is a mediocre.”
His thinking seems to go on the same lines with that of the onetime President of Coke, Roberto Goizueta. You remember the new coke fiasco several years ago. The man in charge of Marketing, Sergio Zyman, resigned in disgrace over the failure in new coke campaign. But the President of coke, Roberto Goizueta re-hired him. Here is what he said on his decision to hire him:
“We become uncompetitive by not being tolerant of mistakes. The moment you let avoiding failure becomes your motivator, you are down the path of inactivity. You can step on your toe if you are moving.”
There is no lady who walks in high heeled shoes who has not stumbled especially when using them for the first time. Now think about it! If the President of Coca-Cola International encourages his employees not to fear failure and start moving- with literally billions and billions of shillings at stake -who are you and I to play safe?
I believe that if you don’t have much, that is the best time to take a risk and move because you have so little to lose! Whatever you do, don’t’ get discouraged.
George Mathew Adams asserts, “In this life, we get only those things for which we hunt, for which we strive and for which we are willing to sacrifice. It is better to aim for something you want, even though you miss than to get something that you did not aim to get, and which you do not want. If we look long enough for what we want in life we are almost sure to find it, no matter what objective may be”.
I believe no great success happens on its own, In other words, there is no rise without a price. Without a reaction, there is no motion, and without motion, there cannot be a change of position. As the change of position occurs it leads to movement and as movement gains momentum, one is likely to stumble in some occasions. That is part of life.
I sometimes agree that some things do change with time, but I also know that time itself changes nothing. That is, things will only change for the worse if only left with time. Just imagine if you failed an examination 10 years ago. How long will it take for your result to change for the better, if you do nothing about it? It will take forever!
I recently met a classmate of mine we were doing a professional course (CPA) at the same time and surprised me that he was discouraged with numerous failures and gave up. I told him that in this life, if you leave your life to chance, you have no chance.
I advised him that the most reasonable approach for changing his result for a better one is to re- register for the exam, review his preparatory approach, seek help through books and people, and resit the exam. I further told him that he could not fail with facts. Every candidate writes things down in an examination hall, but only those who have the facts get marks. There is no substitution for information in one’s quest for a change of position, not even intercession can substitute information
Therefore, waiting for his life to change without doing anything makes no sense; it is the application of relevant forces that guarantees success in his examination. That is, knowing what to do and doing it committedly and correctly and with great discipline.
George Washington said, Discipline is the soul of an army, it makes a small number formidable, and it procures success to the weak and esteem to all “Discipline in my view is to do what is required to get what is desired. It is doing what is demanded not what is convenient.
I was telling my former schoolmate that failure is not confined only to him. We sometimes look at the supposedly greener grass in our neighbour’s compound and use the hard times or failures we have been through to justify why we are not as successful as they are. In truth, if we could take everyone’s failures and put them in a pile and then pick out the ones we would want for ourselves, we could probably pick our own. When we look in envy at others’ successes, their live look glamorous. But when we look at their failures and other problems, our own begin to take on a new perspective.
In fact history is littered with heroes who failed but later made it. Pamela Jelimo, born on December5, 1989 started running competitive athletics at the age of 13 but experienced several challenges in her practice. Due to her hard work, she won a gold medal in 800 meters and everybody wanted to associate with her victory from the most powerful man in the land to the lowly villager.
Abraham Lincoln endured more than his share of misery during his lifetime. He grew up dirt, poor and started working ten-hour days by age seven. Life didn’t get easier when he became an adult.
He was defeated in a run for office when he was 23. His sweetheart died when he was 26, he had a nervous breakdown when he was 27, he lost his race for public office again when he was 29, and again when he was 31, and again when he was 34, and again at 39. He lost the race for the United States Senate when he was 46 years of age, and then at 47 years of age, he ran for the office of the Vice-President of the United States. But history tells us that when he was 51, Abe Lincoln was elected President of the United States…”unthinkable.”Indeed you can only stumble if you are moving! You can only step on your toe if you are moving!
While serving as President, he agonized over the Civil War…endured a bad marriage to a hysterical woman who nearly spent him into bankruptcy… and suffered endlessly when his favorite son, Willie died before his 10th birthday.
Yet despite all these numerous personal and professional setbacks, Lincoln was generally a positive and upbeat man who loved to swap anecdotes and tell jokes at every opportunity. He considered every failure in his life as a lesson.
It is important for leaders to learn from Abe Lincoln that making mistakes is allowed because one can learn valuable lessons from the mistakes. Therefore I urge them to allow their employees or followers to make mistakes if any innovation has to occur. H.S. Judd said, “Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. If you are not failing, you are not growing.”
We all go through tough times, and we all fail at one time or another. I have carried some quotes in my wallet from unknown author and have helped me in moments of setbacks and they read;
Failing doesn’t mean I am a failure; it just means I haven’t yet succeeded.
Failing doesn’t mean I’ve accomplished nothing; it just means I have learned something.
Failing doesn’t mean I have been a fool; it just means I had enough faith to experiment.
Failing doesn’t mean I have been disgraced; it just means I dared to try.
Failing doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes; it just means I must do things differently next time.
Failing doesn’t mean I am inferior; it just means I am not perfect.
Failing doesn’t mean I have wasted my time; it just means I have reason to start over.
Failing doesn’t mean I should give up; it just means I must try harder.
Failing doesn’t mean I’ll never make it; it just means I need more patience.
Failing doesn’t mean I am wrong; it just means I must find a better way.
Failing doesn’t mean God has abandoned me; it just means I must obediently seek his will.
If you have found yourself throughout life never scared, embarrassed, disappointment, or hurt, it means you have never taken any chances. A dream that does not include risk of failure is not really worth of being called a dream.
Halifax said, “The man who leaves nothing to chance will do few things badly, but he will do very few things”. In other words, if you want to be successful, you must either have a chance or take one. You can’t get your head above water if you never stick your neck out.
But one thing I know for sure and you can etch this on stone; you will never know unless you try. You stumble only if you are moving!