There really is an upside to failure. Don’t quit. Keep going. Resilience is your most important weapon.

by Jill Griffin

Resilience. It’s the secret ingredient to success. If you can figure out how to stay the course and get back in the game after failure, you’ll go places and you’ll make the difference you were intended to make.

The truth is, most people that we revere spent more time down for the count than they did in the fight itself. The list is endless, but here are a couple that quickly come to mind. Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he created the light bulb. Richard Branson dropped out of school at 15. His prospects looked grim at that point, don’t you think? And yet he became one of the leading businesspeople on the planet. He’s also battled dyslexia over the years, with all of the struggles associated with it.

That’s just two out of tens of thousands of people who changed the world. The lesson in all of these great people’s stories is if you haven’t failed, you’re not reaching high enough. You’re not stretching yourself. Playing it safe sounds easier at first glance, but here’s why that’s not true: It’s only a veneer of safety, a mirage that makes us feel better while we stay comfortably numb, never accomplishing the things we’re meant to accomplish.

If you are going places, failure is just part of the deal, but that’s OK. You can fix failure. You can’t fix the things you never tried. You can’t undo those things you never attempted in the first place. If you stop trying, you’ll always wonder about what could have been. That kind of regret is a heavy burden that a lot of people will bear because they played it safe, or maybe even failed a time or two and gave up.

100-watt light bulbs are arranged for a photograph in New York, U.S. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

 According to The Gallup Organization, fully half of us believe that we are not getting to do what we do best every day. Half. Only half of us are chasing our dreams, using our strengths and talents, and joyfully moving forward while relishing the journey.

I would guess that many in the other half tried and failed a time or two and decided not to try anymore. In fact, John Maxwell says quitting can become a habit. You quit a few times, and it starts feeling OK. Pretty soon, you are quitting again and again. I’ve watched people do exactly that. If you are one of those, please…let me encourage you to try again.

I have had a good life. I’ve written books, been a speaker and a New York Stock Exchange board member for almost 15 years. But, I’ve had my share of defeats, too. Let me tell you about one in particular.

It was early on in my speaking career. I was asked to speak at Inc. Magazine’s very influential and important event in Atlanta where there would be 45 top speakers. I had a standing room only audience. Within minutes of starting my talk I could tell I wasn’t engaging them, but I plowed through with my facts and figures anyway. Assessments were done at the end of the event so attendees could rate the speakers and make comments. Two weeks later the verdict was in. I was rated 45th out of 45! I was devastated. Not only did Inc. Magazine know I stunk but all these big-time speakers did too! I felt so ashamed.

Failure doesn’t have to be the final verdict, I said to myself. Maybe failure is a sign, a red flag that something is wrong that needs to be fixed.   Don’t shy away from that. Go fix it!

I went to a trusted friend and fellow speaker and shared the bad news. He bluntly told me there was only one thing to do: Take myself to the proverbial “Woodshed”…. face this huge, public failure, work through the shame, and go back home and think through what got me the failing score.

With a heavy heart, I went back to my desk at my home office, pulled out a blank sheet of paper and listed every trespass I had committed in that speech to that audience on that day. At the top of the list: I was intimidated and scared. That’s why I hid behind my facts and figures when I should have woven that information into great stories. Bottom line: I failed to entertain them. And, most of all, I didn’t speak from my heart.

So, I got back out with a whole new perspective. With my hard-won insights, I carefully choreographed a new presentation style and began speaking in front of audiences everywhere. Things got better and better.

After two years of reinvention and with great testimonials, I called my contact back at Inc. Magazine. I told him I knew I had disappointed him two years before, but I had a handle on it now. He surprised me by telling me that he had been hearing great things about my work and that audiences were really enjoying the new, more transparent version of my talks.

He invited me back and the event went beautifully. I still fail from time to time, and when I do I go back to that moment when I had two choices, really: Keep going because I believed in myself and my mission, or quit and walk away with my tail tucked between my legs. I am glad I chose the former.

So, have you figured out what you’re called to do in this world? That one thing that you can do better than ten thousand other people? If you have, get busy. Work hard. Never give up. If you fail, try again. No matter how difficult it is, one day the lights will come on for you and the world will be better off for it.

 

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