Have you failed recently? If not, why are you not trying to fail?

 Failure is a much better teacher than success.  Really, it is.  Think back over your life and tell me that it is not so and I’ll tell you that you have not tried to do much.  Are you mad yet or are you starting to see my point?

Failure is a great teacher in many ways.  Here are a couple of personal stories to help you understand how I have learned from failure.  As a starry-eyed high school senior I chose to attend the United States Naval Academy and pursue the career of a naval officer.  I was firmly fixed on the proposition that I would have a free education and a great career opportunity.  What I quickly learned was the I was in no way prepared, especially from an emotional and experiential way, for the rigor that I experienced in Plebe summer.  plebe_summer_run.jpg

Prior to that point in my life I had spent little time away from home and I had never experienced the level of challenge that I found at Annapolis.  As a result of this lack of experience, and lack of support, I failed miserable because I was not prepared for the challenge and could not separate the day to day challenges from my own personal emotion.  I chose to leave the Navy and entered a public university where I started to mature and found my way.  That summer on the campus of USNA taught me lessons that I have never forgotten and they have affected both my life and the lives of both of my sons, although they may not realized it.  This failure helped me to understand the full scope of what I planned to undertake and it also helped me grasp what kinds of experiences my sons needed to have prior to their college experience.  As a result I had the chance to spend several interesting and challenging weeks with my sons in some interesting terrain away from civilization while they were active Boy Scouts.  boundary-waters.jpgThey learned about adversity, self dependence and interdependence at a much younger age than I did and it has helped them so much as they have grown.

Growth occurs from failure if you can step back and see the entire context, but success can lead to future failure if you don’t learn to separate good from great.  As Jim Collins said in the best seller "Good to Great", good IS the enemy of great.  I will talk briefly about my good to great experience.

I worked for a company that started from scratch and grew quite rapidly.  During that period I had multiple roles and enjoyed tremendous personal satisfaction and advancement.  Our company was good, but never great.  We got complacent and never achieved greatness because we got comfortable being good.  The warmth of Good is a great obstacle to the blaze of Greatness.  Don’t let good cause the failures that prevent greatness.

What about you?  Where have you failed?  What have you learned?


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