Why being a ‘failure’ can actually make you a success


If I follow this advice can I please be richer than Bill Gates?

These three things will instantly make you feel great … promise.
1. Did you know that Bill Gates, one of the worlds richest men, was actually a Harvard University dropout, and co-owned a failed business called Traf-O-Data?
2. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination,”
3. And Albert Einstein did not speak until he was nine years old, leading his teachers to believe he was unintelligent and slow!

Failure is something that even the most successful people cannot avoid, and yet it remains something that we all seem to fear, particularly in our working environments.  According to Gary Douglas, self-confessed international speaker and business innovator, “avoiding failure means avoiding accountability and responsibility. By fearing failure, you are preventing possibilities for innovation and creativity.”

My secret is …failure is the new success

The idea is that failure in our careers and business should be perceived as an opportunity for growth and change, and that great leaders allow their employees to learn from mistakes, rather than attempt to avoid them. “The mark of a true leader is one that empowers people by giving them room to explore, choose and realise their capabilities,” he advises.

For many business leaders and their employees, the idea that mistakes must be avoided at all costs is an unquestionable reality; one that is undermining the future of many businesses. One global study revealed that the fear of failure is potentially stifling Aussie innovation, and a US survey found that same fear is the single biggest factor in low staff accountability and productivity.

“Some people misidentify leadership and misalign it with micromanaging. In order to avoid mistakes, they disempower their staff and remove any ability for employees to choose, explore and innovate”, Douglas remarks.

Ever wondered if you manager is really as bad as you say they are at 11pm over Friday night drinks? According to Douglas, the most effective managers allow others to do things that they, themselves, may not choose – even if that looks like allowing a ‘mistake’ to occur. In doing so, the employee is able to accept accountability for the outcome and receive the awareness from the choice they make.

“True leadership is the ability to transform anything; the ability to empower people; the ability to bring people forward with their capacities and enhance that”, he advises. “What if there are no mistakes? Choice always gives you awareness and awareness is priceless.”

What if you’re the ‘bad manager’?!

So, how exactly do you become ‘comfortable’ with failure? 

  1. Allow employees to work through and learn from their mistakes: “When an employee ‘fails” get them to look at what they now know that they didn’t know before. Rather than looking at the result and judging it as wrong or as a failure, get them to ask, ‘What else is possible?’ If they are willing to stop judging, if they are willing to look at what their choice created, if they are willing to continue to ask questions, they are a contribution to your organisation.”
  2. Be aware of the real reason some employees repeat mistakes: “If you have someone who keeps repeating the same ‘mistake,’ either they don’t really want the job, they are settling for a career they don’t really care about, or there is something getting in the way. Ask them questions. Ask them to be honest about what it is they desire and what they would like their life and their career to look like. Empower them to get clear on what they desire in their life and then to choose it. Failure is nothing but a need for change.”
  3. Realise that ‘failure’ is ultimately assisting you: “Good leaders don’t look at anything as a failure. If something you’ve chosen didn’t have a particular outcome, ask questions. What is right about this that I’m not getting? What else is possible here that I haven’t considered? How does it get any better than this? When you are willing to ask questions, when you are willing to look at what your choice created, without judgment, you simply choose again.”

Ready to become an even better human being? Read these three articles!

How to Deal with the Worst People in Your Workplace