The French have a proverb: “Only he who does nothing makes no mistakes.” When philosophers and management experts discuss Failure, one would think they are discussing its opposite term; Success. When one visits modern management sites, the rags to riches stories one reads seem to always suggest and reinforce the feeling that there is no Success UNLESS there is a Failure preceding it. Advocates of Failure as a great learning and management tool towards success always mention that even Genghis Khan lost some early battles. To wit, the first two years of Genghis’ rise as to the khanate were abysmally horrible; even his wife was abducted.
In his book, THE POWER OF FAILURE, Charles Manz says, “Failure is one of the most dreaded words in the English language. The very idea of failing is enough to stop most people in their tracks. It can cause the majority to simply pack up, turn around and retreat without even trying…Failure is not something to be feared [however, as] it contains a positive challenge for success…”
Joey Green, in the book THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS PAVED WITH FAILURE, discusses how Walt Disney’s first cartoon production company went bankrupt, but Walt went on to become the famous creator of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland, and producer of such children’s animated delights as Bambi, Cinderella, Snow White and Pinocchio. Or John F. Kennedy who contested for class captain in his school days, and lost. Or Elvis Presley who scored a C in music, and his teacher told him he could never sing.
In a recent piece, the magazine Readers’ Digest discussed how people who have apparently failed in their first attempts have pieced things together and made another try, and made it. Failure is not the end of life, they suggest. They narrate the story of author J. K. Rowling who addressed the graduating class at Harvard last June. Rowling didn’t focus on Success. Instead, she spoke about Failure. She related a story about a young woman who gave up her dream of writing novels to study something more practical. Nonetheless, she ended up as an unemployed single mom ‘as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.’ But during this rock-bottom time, she realised she still had a wonderful daughter, an old typewriter, and an idea that would become the foundation for rebuilding her life. Perhaps you’ve heard of Harry Potter? ‘You might never fail on the scale I did,’ Rowling told that privileged audience. ‘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.
A commentator once wrote, “All too often many people ask for success and prepare for failure. One of the ways we sabotage our success is procrastination. We talk about what we want to do without taking any steps in that direction. Plans are good. They help us to focus, and to put our ideas in some semblance of order. But there is no use keeping all of your talents and potential to yourself. It wouldn’t be fair to you, the world or the purpose for which you were born. Sometimes you just have to go out and make a few mistakes. It’s all right. Practice makes perfect, remember? Feel the fear, and do it anyway. You will never overcome the fear of success unless you take the first step. That is how your journey to success begins. The rest is a lot easier.
“Maybe you feel that you’ve aimed too high [say, six thousand megawatts by December 2009] and that it could not possibly happen. Aiming high is a good thing. If you reach for the sky, you just might touch the stars. In fact, you might even become a star. Fear is a part of our Shadow Self and it should be faced and embraced. That is one good way to get in touch with your fear. To acknowledge it. To become one with it. To know that it is a part of you and it is not bad, just there. By doing this, you will have removed most of the energy of fear and failure. You would have transmuted it into something positive and productive.”
Let us ponder this famous Eastern story about Focus as elixir to success. Its broad title runs: ‘When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way.’
The story runs: “A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo, he was given an audience by the sensei. “What do you wish from me?” the master asked. “I wish to be your student and be the finest karateka in the land,” the boy replied. “How long must I study?” “Ten years at least,” the master answered. “Ten years is a long time,” said the boy. “What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?” “Twenty years,” replied the master. “Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?” “Thirty years,” was the master’s reply. “How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?” the boy asked. “The answer is clear,” says the master. “When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way.”
Finally, Genghis Khan had told his troops some basic truths: “Only a fool fights a battle he knows he cannot win.” He also said: “A man who seeks power needs friends who have power.” And he also added: “Men are loyal only to a strong leader. A warrior does not win a battle by virtue of his birth.”