In his book ‘The Heart of a Leader’ (see 05-Sep-06), Ken Blanchard also cites the ‘Success is not final and failure is not fatal’ quote originally spoken by Churchill, but more famously stated in a slight variant of ‘Success is not forever’ (the Churchill version has more of a ring to it with the slant between ‘final’ and ‘fatal’) by legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins football team, Don Shula (“winningest coach in the history of the NFL”). The Shula anecdote is a great example of keeping things in perspective and moving on in how that sentiment was put into practice.
“Don had a twenty-four hour rule. He allowed himself, his coaches, and his players a maximum of twenty-four hours after a football game to celebrate a victory or bemoan a defeat. During that time, they were encouraged to experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat as deeply as possible. Once the twenty-four hour deadline had passed, they put it behind them and focused their energies on preparing for the next opponent.”
Blanchard also offered a personal example of persistence akin to the Abraham Lincoln example described in ‘Embracing Failure’ (19 November 2005):
“All the vocational preference tests verified [sales] as my best career choice. I applied for a summer sales internship and made the finals, but after extensive interviews, I failed to get the job. At the time, I was serving as a dormitory counsellor, so someone encouraged me to get my doctorate and become a dean of students. With doctoral degree in hand, I applied for many good jobs but I was turned down because of a lack of experience. Undetered, I set my sights on becoming a faculty member, but I was told that would be impossible because my writing wasn’t academic enough. ‘So how,’ you might ask, ‘did you become a writer and a teacher?’ That’s a long story, but along the way I learned to live by this rule: Keep your head up and look for the next opportunity.”
Finally, Blanchard presents his own version of ‘embracing failure’ for the benefit of learning from ones mistakes:
“People in organisations need to develop a fascination for what doesn’t work…The tendency is to move from crisis to crisis, hardly stopping to see what went wrong. This leads to denial and causes us to look away from errors rather than toward them…A few forward-thinking companies have learned to celebrate the mistakes as opportunities for learning. I know of a large organisation that shoots of a cannon when a big mistake is made. They’re not saying that they enjoy making error; they’re saying it’s time for everyone to learn something.”