~Joel’s Blog

Celebrate Failure?

You failed. Ouch.

Failure is something people avoid. We don’t like to fail. We get embarrassed. Or we simply reject opportunities to fail. Homer Simpson declares that “trying is the first step toward failure.”

So we forget how much we live with failure. We don’t notice how wonderful our lives are because of someone else’s failure.

And that’s a shame, really.

Because in an age of roughly 93,000 flights every day, worldwide, it is virtually impossible for us to appreciate what it took to intentionally get a person off the ground in the first place.

Extraordinary daring and persistence were necessary characteristics of the earliest aviators. But they needed more than that, didn’t they? They needed vision. Only a relentless commitment to their vision would carry them past the inevitable and frequent failures they’d face.

The concept of “vision” gets tossed around a lot in the business community. But is that a good thing?

Um, no. Not so much.

And not just because a “vision in business” Google search brought ~810,000,000 results in .61 seconds.

Failed Vision = No Vision

For all the times business leaders declare the “need for vision,” it is rare when you hear a vision that demands following.

Who is it that needs to have “vision”? The executives of the enterprise? The middle managers? The rank and file? One and all? If so, where does the vision begin? How is it conveyed?

Jim Collins, in his bestseller, Good to Great, fondly describes “BHAGs”–big, hairy audacious goals. His message is compelling and simple. The world needs more outrageous, preposterous goals. In a word, he says that we need more “vision.”

Early aviators certainly operated from a BHAG point of view: humans + flight.

Think about it. How many detractors did they have? How many times did they hear people whispering behind them “That’s insane! if we were meant to fly, God would have given us wings!” How many times was it shouted in their face?

In spite of the tidal waves of negative reactions, and tremendous personal risk, those intrepid visionaries kept at it. They tried. And they failed. Early and often, as the saying goes.

And No VisEureka, I failed!ion = No Progress

Working within any large organization means you are not providing the vision. Unless you are the person at the helm. Or the most senior of the senior executives. Only then are you tasked with implementing a BHAG. Audacious commitment from anyone else isn’t needed because it is someone else’s vision, after all. Consequently, no vision is required from everyone but the top dog.

But at what cost to everyone else?

Little risk. Little fulfillment. Infrequent failure. Relinquishing dreams. No relentless commitment. No vision. And no flight.

A thinker I admire says this:

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. Dennis Waitley

Homer Simpson got it mixed up. Not trying is a guaranteed path to failure. If you try, you might fail. But you’ll grow because of your effort.

And someday…someday…you just might become the reason the rest of us celebrate failures–your failures–another 93,000 times per day.

But only if you embrace the opportunities for failure.

Engage in something that matters. Scare yourself. Frequently. With urgency. Soon, you’ll find yourself soaring. Or celebrating your failure with a proud yawp, “Eureka, I failed!”

What’s your experience of vision? Has it failed you? Are you the leader in charge of setting an inspiring vision to strive for? Are you tasked with making someone else’s vision come into being? Have you considered the costs?

Engage here. Leave your comment below.


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