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Prevailing wisdom would have us believe that we must avoid failure at all costs and that success is the only option. However, it may not be as black and white as it is made out to be.
Yes, there are life or death situations where there is tremendous pressure to succeed. Think about a surgeon performing emergency surgery. But even then, you mustn’t believe that there is no room for failure in your life. There is a danger that this mindset could stop you from making sense of success.
Success becomes less enjoyable when you are constantly looking over your shoulder and trying to avoid failure. You stop appreciating the grind since all you care about is the end goal.
While this all-or-nothing mindset may seem inspiring from the outside, the reality is that it can take a real toll on you and hold back your potential. Let’s explore its potential impact and how embracing your failures can help you deal with them.
It is natural to obsess over every minute detail when you keep telling yourself that there is no room for failure. You become worried that even the slightest mistake could cost you. This often leads to micromanaging, decision paralysis, unhealthy work culture, lengthy approval cycles and cost pile-ups.
When you are prepared to embrace failure, you are less likely to obsess over every detail or intervene in matters beyond your station. As a leader, you start trusting others more. And decision-making becomes more decentralized, thus enabling your team to be much more proactive and responsive.
There is very little room for experimentation when you are not ready to accept the possibility of it failing. Spending time and resources on something new may not be viewed as viable. You would instead stick to the tried and tested ways since they are almost guaranteed to succeed. This kind of short-termism can stunt your growth, see you lose your first-mover advantage and cause market failure.
If you can set aside your fear of failure and conduct well-thought-out experiments, you stand to gain valuable new insights that none of your competitors might have. More importantly, it can help you make data-driven decisions and forecasts, and stop you from making investment decisions that are not in sync with the market conditions.
3. Blame culture
Blame culture is a by-product of a lack of failure tolerance. You start believing mistakes and errors are unforgivable and that there is nothing more shameful than failing. Your focus tends to be on finding out who is to be blamed for the mistake, rather than what caused it. More often than not, the corrective action will see the blame being apportioned to someone, but the underlying problem stays unresolved. This sort of half-baked approach will hamper productivity and also adversely affect morale.
Examining failure is a tough job, whether it is yours or your team’s. Apart from dealing with personal insecurities and jilted egos, you will have to call into question the effectiveness of long-followed processes and procedures. This is only possible when you are failure tolerant. It allows you to confront the problem scientifically and transparently. And only then would you be able to quickly identify the root causes and work towards fixing them.
Focusing solely on your successes will not reveal too much about yourself. Analyzing them might help you list tactics and strategies that worked for you, but it will be hard to apportion how different factors contributed to the success.
On the other hand, confronting failure helps you identify precisely what or where it went wrong. You can narrow the cause down to a particular decision you took or a specific weakness of yours. This way, you will know what needs to be fixed and chart an appropriate action plan.
Success can often mask more significant problems that you are facing, which get worse with an all-or-nothing mindset. Because of the constant pressure to succeed, people may end up overlooking glaring issues that could potentially turn everything upside down. You will only realize it once the dominos start falling. Complacency could be another reason behind this.
Leaders who embrace failure are more likely to operate with a growth mindset. They may fail regularly, but it will mostly be controlled and quick. This way, each time they fail, they extract multiple valuable insights that help them innovate and stay ahead of competitors.
As a leader, embracing failure doesn’t mean you are promoting mediocrity. Instead, you are building an environment where employees are continuously looking to learn and innovate. They appreciate what it takes to succeed, and are not under pressure to inflate numbers, underreport or cover up mistakes and errors.