The Gift Of Failure

Hey, how are you? Guess what?! I totally freaked out the other day when my daughter came home with an invitation for my first PTA meeting! Last time I used the acronym was when my parents were deciding which one of them would attend our school PTA meeting. I couldn’t believe that the time had zipped by so fast and ‘we were now the ones attending PTA meetings’. [By the way, in case you were wondering, PTA stands for Parents-Teachers Association].

Well, I was working on the D-day, so my husband and I agreed that we would meet outside the school hall and then go in together. I was going to use public transport, so I checked the bus timetable and I was pretty impressed with myself when I not only boarded the ‘intended’ bus but also made the connecting bus later on. [As an aside, you know how I’m really super optimistic, well it does end up making me rather late for a lot of events because I tend to underplay how long it will actually take me to get there. When it comes to my timing, my husband sees the cup as half empty or close to the dredges but I see it as overflowing and running over. It’s worse when I’m driving because I believe that I have superpowers that help me avoid traffic and get to my destination 3 minutes before time. In the case of public transportation, when the bus timetable says that I will get to the destination by 4.38pm, I sort of interpret it to mean an arrival time of 4.35pm or even 4.30pm on a super good day. That said, I must point out that I always get to work early though but don’t tell anyone that a big motivation is being able to leave work early]. Hehe. So I suppose you can now understand why I was quite impressed with myself. 

Everything was going according to plan and I settled in for a relaxing read. When we started getting closer to my destination, I looked up from my book and performed a mental check of my attire – makeup retouch [check]; blouse tucked in neatly [check]; matching bag [check] & last but not least, heels [check]. Splendid. All that was left was to get off 2 minutes beside the school and casually stroll in like I just don’t care. Well, that was until I got confused [blame it on never having travelled this route by bus] and I got off a cool 10 minute walk away from the school! There was the 2 second time frame when I just got off and I was looking back at the driver questioning if I had got off at the right spot and wondering if I should quickly get back in, but those seconds slipped away and before I knew it, I was looking at the taillights and realizing my mistake all at the same time! ^$%#&*&^$^^^!!! Truth be said, I don’t actually swear, but I could have given myself a hiding for making such a stupid stupid mistake, which had now left me walking to the school under the sun and in high heels. 

It took me a good 4 minutes to calm myself down and decide to accept the mistake, move-on and actually enjoy the walk. How do you handle mistakes and failures? I don’t handle them very well at all. It could be something small like making a choice between two buses and finding out that the other bus was an earlier one and I was stuck with a late one or something big [in the scheme of things] like forgetting my wallet at home and turning up at the checkout after a full 3 hours of shopping! I scold myself, shake my head at myself and it takes me a while to let the frustration I feel out of my system. So on this day, I decided to pop some headphones on, enjoy the scenery and think about the excitement of attending my first official PTA. Anyway, with this change of attitude, I was able to forgive myself and take my time to get to the venue [after advising my husband to go in without me].

Recently I have been thinking about decision-making and how not to sweat the small things. I find that given the way I deal with my own mistakes, I am also quite hard on others when they make mistakes. After some self-study, I realised that the way I deal with my errors stem from the fear of failure. I started doing some research into the topic because as I wanted to know how business giants are able to get past their failures and channel them as a driving force to their successes. I was challenged by this comment from the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley, ‘I think of my failures as a gift’. In his interview with Harvard Business Review, he alludes to the fact that we actually need a healthy dose of failure to enable us gain the wisdom we need to flourish. Who would have thought?!  Well, I’m been very inspired by the insight such icons have shared about their failures and over the next 3 weeks I will be running a series with a focus on Failure and how to use it effectively and grow. 

6 Steps To Unwrapping The Gift Of Failure (by A.G. Lafley):

  1. When you make mistakes, learn to get past the frustration, blame and disappointment and actually try to understand what happened, how it happened and why. 
  2. Be clear on what you have learned from the situation and what you will do differently next time.
  3. Appreciate that you will always get more insightful learning from failure rather than from success.
  4. Plan for success by implementing processes & checks to tell you whether you are on or off track next time.
  5. Take responsibility for your failure [blaming others will keep you from being open to learn from the experience]
  6. Create a culture [in your workplace, family, business] that turns failure into a learning tool which will lead to continuous growth. 

Hey, a penny for your thoughts on this? How do you deal with mistakes? I am dying to know your own tips and tricks in the comments below. 

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