by Jeremy McGilvrey
“The ability to recognize and learn from one’s mistakes is the first step to becoming a great leader. BUT the ability to learn from others’ mistakes is not only critical to successful leadership – it is GENIUS.”

Recently, a friend of mine and I were sitting at an upscale restaurant in Houston, Texas talking about old times. We haven’t seen one another in nearly half a decade. Anyhow, our conversation turned to the failure’s and mistakes we’ve made over the years. We ended up talking at length about all the areas in life where we had went wrong. And believe me – we had one story after the next about our failure’s which included: failed marriages, failed businesses, failed you name it. We were text book failure’s in the sense. But do you know what? We were also probably some of the most SUCCESSFUL individuals in the restaurant! That’s right. Sure…we’ve made our fair share of mistakes. But, WE’VE LEARNED FROM THEM!

My friend and I will continue to make mistakes. I assure you we’ll continue to have failure’s in our lives. But I also assure you that ALL of our mistakes going forward will be ORIGINAL MISTAKES. Why? Because we’ve learned our lessons from the school of hard knocks taught at the University of Life. We’ve taken our licks, dusted ourselves off and got back up and tried again.

Teddy Roosevelt quipped, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The CREDIT belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives VALIANTLY; who errs, who comes up short AGAIN and AGAIN, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of HIGH ACHIEVEMENT, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

As entrepreneurs, (which we both are), our failure’s are now our GREATEST ASSETS. How can that be? Because my friend and I have philosophies that address our mistakes, we strive to understand them, we learn the key elements in them, and most importantly, we turn them into success.

You see, the most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to PROFIT from your LOSSES, your FAILURE’S. That requires patience and intelligence. It makes the difference between a person of sense and a person of full of nonsense!

The reason why my friend and I are SUCCESSFUL despite all of our failure’s is because we understand something very clearly that most don’t. Which is: FAILURE is simply the price we MUST pay to achieve SUCCESS!

In 2011, the Harvard Business Review devoted the entire April issue to the importance of learning from mistakes and failure. And a substantive body of academic research has demonstrated the considerable value of looking at how leaders react to mistakes, especially when the result is undesirable consequences.

Not long ago, Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel completed a study illustrating that over the last twenty-five years there has been a dramatic increase in our preference to learn from failure rather than success. The researchers argue, “How much do we talk about learning from failure? How much about learning from success? The gap between them is growing – which suggests we prefer to learn from flops.”

No wonder my friend and are I successful. We spent nearly 3 hours educating each other on where we both went wrong so we could learn from our failure’s and mistakes. (See quote I opened with)

Whatever you do, don’t shy away from failure. Embrace failure. Talk about failure. Learn from failure. And most importantly…move forward and SUCCEED because of failure!
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