Life begins at the other side of your comfort zone… Neale Donald Walsh
I am inspired this week by a circumstance in my family life with my son. I am watching the courage he has had this week to stand up for what he believes in and it is inspiring me to write this today. We need to let people fail. We need to realize we will fail ourselves. We need to believe that failure is a good thing and not a definition of who we are. When people push you to achieve more and it makes you uncomfortable you can “turtle” and hide in your shell, or you can embrace it and keep trying until you reach new heights. I have personally been on both sides of this equation. There are been times in my life where I faced a challenge and I chose to quit. There have been times in my life where I faced a challenge, got really uncomfortable, but got out on the other side. There have been times in my life where I have faced a challenge, worked really hard… and have not succeeded. Guess what? I am still here and I can tell you about it!
Adversity and pushing people to stretch will result in two potential outcomes. One is that they may be stretched farther and become better then they realized. The other is that it may result in failure. Why is it that we are so scared to let people be stretched? Why do we try and protect people from these feelings? What is truly the worst that can happen? Unless it is a life threatening action we are stretching people to do, it is likely that the consequence is not really a big deal. Maybe you will hurt. Maybe you will be embarrassed. Maybe you will be a little scared. All of these things may not feel so great at the time, but truly will the world end? NO!
I teach a cycling class and in that class I often challenge my riders to take their effort to their max. Each week I challenge them to find a new max. I don’t do this to keep pushing people to an unrealistic level. I do this because we are naturally inclined to not push ourselves as far as we can go. There is nothing wrong with not pushing yourself… but if you want growth, if you want change, if you want to go farther you need to push yourself. The same goes for others. If you lead people (or parent people) and allow them to stay in their comfort zone, are you truly leading them? If you protect people too closely who are you actually hurting? When we let people fail, we teach them resiliency. When we challenge people farther we teach them persistence. When we make people uncomfortable we teach them courage. To lead is to teach. Let’s stop complaining about people having no resiliency, persistence and courage and instead set them up to learn some. Here are some awesome stories of failure leading to success.
Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded – Apple. He also failed with NeXT a computer company and the Lisa computer. When Jobs returned to Apple, he led the business to become the most profitable company in the US.
Charles Schultz’s drawings were rejected by his high school yearbook. Schultz went on to create Peanuts (featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown). The cartoon and licensing/product revenue from Peanuts generated over $1 billion a year. The high school eventually put a statue of snoopy in the main office.
The Beatles were rejected by numerous record labels including Decca Records, which said, “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” The Beatles did wind up getting signed by a record label. The Beatles sold more singles in the UK than anyone else, and the Beatles have moved more units in the US (more than 177 million) than any other group.
Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Ash sold books door to door while her husband served in the military. When her husband returned from duty, they divorced. Ash was left with three children at a time when divorce wasn’t acceptable.
Ash was frustrated when passed over for a promotion because she was a woman. So, she and her second husband planned a business, Mary Kay Cosmetics. One month prior to launch her husband died.
With a $5,000 investment from her oldest son, Ash launched her business. Forbes reported 2014 revenue as over $3.5 billion.
It took 5 years and 5,126 failed prototypes for James Dyson to develop the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. 10 years later Dyson setup his own manufacturing facility, because other manufacturers wouldn’t produce his vacuum. Now he has the best selling vacuum in the world. According to The Sunday Times, in 2013 his net worth was 3 Billion Pounds.
Speaking at Harvard’s graduation, J.K. Rowling spoke about failures:
“You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling told the new graduates. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
When Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, she was divorced, bankrupt and on welfare.
After a dozen publishers rejected her manuscript one finally agreed to publish it. But the publisher told Rowling that she needed to get a job because there’s no money in children’s books.
She’s now a billionaire.
I encourage you to TRY this week… maybe you will fail… maybe you won’t… but either way you win!