“Failure” and “Mistake” don’t have to be negative words. I love the optimistic mindset of Thomas Edison when an experiment or new invention failed. He didn’t think of it as a “failure” but as part of the success process. He would put a positive frame around the “failure” by giving it value, since through it he had just learned another way it couldn’t be done. I was in business with my father for several years. When I made a mistake that cost the company money, he would often say: “Put it down as an education expense”. My father viewed mistakes as learning experiences.
When we are willing and able to learn from a mistake, we bring value to it. Something negative is transformed into something positive. Two things are essential however for this to be accomplished: a humble attitude and a teachable spirit.
People who are successful didn’t get there without making mistakes. They achieved success because they learned valuable lessons from their mistakes and failures. They discovered how to “Fail Forward”. Most successful leaders have concluded that their failures were actually necessary for achieving success.
When failure is processed well, it results in a “one step backwards, two steps forward” outcome. Positive, teachable leaders actually gain ground through what they learn from their mistakes and failures. Evaluated experience is a wonderful resource for growth.
If you study the life and leadership of Moses, you will discover that he had plenty of significant mistakes and failures. Moses became a great leader not because of his lack of mistakes but because he remained humble and teachable. One example can be found in Exodus 18 when his father-in-law points out a serious flaw in how Moses is leading his people.
“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice… Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. (from Exodus 18:17-24 NLT)
Moses made the common mistake of trying to do too much on his own. He was failing to effectively delegate responsibilities to other leaders. He had created a bad situation that put him and his people on the verge of disaster. Fortunately for Moses, he was humble and teachable enough to take his father-in-law’s advice. By learning from this “one step backwards”, Moses took “two giant steps forward” by creating a better leadership structure and delegation system that created a lot more depth and leadership capacity.
Take time today to think back on mistakes you’ve made in the past and celebrate the lessons you learned from them. Always remain humble and teachable. You will never have to fear failure if you know how to “Fail Forward”.