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“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

People who are the greatest at what they do — celebrated leaders, athletes, writers — will tell you that they have failed many times. Any successful entrepreneur will acknowledge they had at least one or two failed attempts before making “it big”. So, we must ask ourselves — were these really “failures” as we’ve become socialized to believe?

At a recent executive panel a question was directed to one of the panelists to share a time they failed in their career and how they ‘corrected course’. The panelist, a very successful senior executive with experience running various global financial companies, chuckled and said, “One time?! I have a whole trunkload of failures!” going on to explain how each “failure” had actually created a new and better opportunity.

So, what if we flipped the script on “failure” and re-defined it as an unexpected outcome serving as a catalyst for something greater? And, instead of using social media to share only the most carefully filtered and curated version of our lives, we used these platforms to help inspire and change the negative connotation of failure, seeing it as a badge of honor and embracing it as part of success?

Recently, I met a woman who told me that the company she works for has ‘Failure Awards’. Similar to how companies typically recognize successes and “wins”, her company also highlights failures, because their corporate culture recognizes it as a necessary part of progress and innovation. I think this is brilliant!

More companies, organizations and teams should understand the positive impact of risk-taking, and the potential for failure as part of the process. Take a look back in history — the telephone was originally envisioned as a medium for sharing live music, the phonograph initially intended as a way to send audio letters through the postal system. Today, a “pivot” is a bit more commonplace — case in point, Instagram, one of the most widely used social media platforms, originated as a check-in app with gaming elements.

Over the last 150 years some of the greatest learning, innovation, ground-breaking ideas, and solutions were born from failure — so don’t be afraid to take the leap!

Have you had an experience where things didn’t turn out as planned, yet led to something even greater? I would love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comment section below.


*image courtesy of amboo who?

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