How to Turn Failure into Success

Published on December 5, 2017

Yesterday morning I had the privilege of hearing Daymond John (of Shark Tank) being interviewed by Jeffrey Hayzlett, CEO of C-Suite Network Advisors. Jeffrey asked Daymond about his strategies for success, and Daymond said that he is always learning, always trying new things, and always adjusting his strategies in order to keep growing. Not everything he does works. In the same discussion, Jeffrey said that life is like flying a plane: We know where we want to go, but the air is not always smooth.

Both Daymond John and Jeffrey Hayzlett are highly successful people, and it was encouraging to hear them both talk about moving forward while making mistakes. Too often, mistakes and failures are not openly discussed. That’s a shame—because by burying the truth, we all miss out on what failure can teach us.

As a Sales and Leadership expert who has been speaking and consulting for the past 30 years, I have made my share of mistakes. In the spirit of openness and encouragement, I’m going to share one of those mistakes with you.

As part of my keynotes these days, I conduct a role-play that transforms people’s perception of how to impact others. No one would ever suspect that this gem of an exercise came out of the ashes of one of my blowout failures.

In the early ‘90s, I did a lot of work for a multinational chemical manufacturer. All divisions loved my presentation, except one. This one division brought me in at the end of December to help train their sales execs on how to sell through a price increase. What I did not know at the time was that these sales execs were veterans, and they were upset that they were not given credit for being the one division that carried the company. As part of my presentation, we did some role-playing, and I was quite critical in my assessment. I was not trying to offend anyone; I just wanted to help them see what they were doing wrong. Unfortunately, I was the one doing it wrong.

The ratings for that program were very low, and my confidence was crushed. I confided in a valued client who ultimately became a lifelong friend. He told me I would get over it and asked me what I could learn and take away from the situation. Using my failure as a learning opportunity got me back on my feet.

One thing that situation taught me is that my job is to create a safe environment, which is critical if I want my audience to listen to me. Going forward my solution was to continue to do a role-play but to no longer offer a critique. Instead I have the two role-play participants do it one way, then I ask the person playing the influencer to start with a different question. This allows me to ask the two participants and the audience about the changes they noticed in the conversation. As a result, the whole audience is engaged—including the two participants. Everyone sees the learning and is transformed by it, and the participants become the heroes because they made it happen.

How have you failed recently? What have you taken away from those experiences? What new initiatives are you going to try in 2018? What will you do if they do not pan out?

The people you consider to be successful have all failed many times, and often they failed miserably. Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. They just didn’t let failure stop them. When we learn from our mistakes, they propel us forward in our careers.

As you make your plans for 2018, be bold. Don’t be afraid to fail, because your failures can always be a launching pad to greater success.

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