Over the years as a trainer at the Southwestern Company, I have adopted many tenets and training tips from success guru, Anthony Robbins. One such principle he teaches is this:
“When we succeed, we party; when we fail, we ponder.”
This underscores the value of failing. Falling short of our expectations causes us to evaluate what we did incorrectly and to make adjustments.
I came across an interesting piece from Fast Company. In it, Alex Bogusky, co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky suggests that there is little or no value in failing. He, in fact, never allows his team to study their failures–he only focuses on successes. For companies which spend lots of time analyzing failures, Bogusky says “you create a fearful culture where you spend a lot of time looking at where you screwed up,” he says. Speaking at an innovation forum, Bogusky turned Robbins’ thesis upside down. Check out his comments here.
So which is it? Do we learn more from our successes or our failures?
I say: from both! Context is everything. Certainly my daughter learned quickly when she (successfully) reached up and put her hand on our very hot stove! She pondered her failure as we drove to the clinic, and has never made the same mistake again. On the other hand, there is value in reviewing what caused success. When we have a good year at Southwestern, or as a marketing team, we always evaluate afterwards and ponder what we did well and what we could improve on.
Covey suggests taking time each week to reflect. He recommends thinking about what worked and what didn’t and what you could do to improve. As long as there is reflection and evaluation, both success and failure can be learning opportunities.
In selling, the emotional weight we attach to our sales calls–how we label our experiences–makes all the difference. There is no failure, only feedback. If we miss a sale and tell ourselves, “I failed.” or “I’m not good at selling”, it adds a negative emotional dimension to our memory (and our future behavior). If we miss a sale and tell ourselves, “I learned from this encounter–I’m learning tons!”, this creates the sense that the sales call has been a success, a learning experience, rather than an outright failure.
What are your thoughts on this topic? I welcome your comments.