Failure: a stepping-stone to success

Is failure the opposite of success? How do you define the one and other? Are they part of the same journey? Can you turn a failure into success? If so, what are you willing to trade to achieve success? On 21 November, our members and guests exchanged thoughts and views on failure and success.

We thank our five facilitators who made it all possible: Amy Amann, Virginia Anderson, Lisa Francis-Jennings, Jill Saville and Catharina Biver.

How do we define “success”?

At her discussion table, Amy explained the use of the internal compass to define our own success and keep a balanced life.

The participants talked about how our values and state of mind influence our view on success. The environment and upbringing have their role to play as well. Also, throughout life, our definition of success changes. It often goes from being relatively materialistic to becoming more value-based and centered around inner peace and happiness.

What does failure look like?

Virginia facilitated the “happy failure table”, where she creatively took participants out of their comfort zone by inviting them to picture what failure looked like to them. The participants agreed that the perception of failure is highly cultural and based on ingrown expectations often put on us at a young age by parents, schools, and society.

While in some cultures failure is almost a taboo, in other cultures it is welcomed, as a source of resilience and knowledge.

Is failure the opposite or part of success?

At Lisa’s table, the diverse backgrounds of all participants revealed further cultural differences in the perception of success and failure. The question arose whether you “live to learn” or “live to fail”?

Further, time was mentioned as an important part of the perception of both success and failure. This lead to the question: “For how long it is healthy to ruminate?”. Otherwise said, sometimes it is best to let life work for you and move on.

Trade-offs for success

Jill Saville introduced the groups to the theory behind trade-offs and helped us all find what are we willing to do to achieve success.

While acceptable trade-offs can be very personal, common topics like sleep, money, time and energy came up.

Digging deeper, we all admitted that, at certain times in our lives, we have to give up things that we value most in order to climb the success ladder. Yet, ideally, success shouldn’t mean giving up what’s most valuable for us; it should mean doing what is good for us – acceptable trade-offs.

How to turn failure into success?

Catharina challenged us all to learn from failure and turn it into success. Success is the journey itself and failure is an inevitable part of it. Feedback, understanding, and acceptance of good and bad, help us achieve success and learn from failures.

Most participants agreed that in every failure there is something positive that will change our path. As soon as we deal with our emotions, we let go and move on to continue our journey.

So, next time you fail – what will you do? Hide in bed for a month? Ruminate? Say “oh well” and shake it off? Try again – differently? Ask Google? It is always our own choice how we react to perceived failures and how big a deal we make out of them. Just remember – no one has the right to judge another person on their failures. We do not know where they are coming from. As Marie-Louise, The Network’s president reminded us all: “Keep the wisdom you gain from the experience and leave the failures behind”.