This afternoon, I sat down at the Century Theater in Boulder, with my long time friend, Matt (@fasterstill) (we started Current Wisdom together) to watch Fast and the Furious (dude, it was better than you think). After putting down my medium diet coke and Red Vines (the only way I will watch a movie. Yes, thats a post for another day), I lowered the brightness on my iPhone and checked my tweets (as I do every time during the previews).
I use Tweetie, and I have about a dozen saved searches for specific people (@lijit is one, @dgcohen23 is another). Among that list is @jeffrey, who at the time I was sitting in the movie, was sitting in the Chicago Red Carpet Club.
Over twitter, he had engaged in a quick discussion with @jenbee (owner of 20×200 [@20x200], my favorite place to find art that is way more valuable than the price you might pay–at least in access and quality. In fact, Jen, if there is anything I could ever do to help you out, lemme know) over failure.
For those that read this blog, failure is something that I deal with, and write about, quite often.
Because of the beauty of Twitter, where you can eavesdrop and join in others conversations, I inserted myself into the discussion. To make sure everyone is up to speed, here are the tweets:
The conversation continued for a bit, but Jordana Brewster came on screen, and I needed to pay attention.
But, my brain was already working.
So many of my friends are involved with startups in some capacity. They seem to sit on one side or another of the failure fence. Those that have had some (or a lot) of success preach about the importance of failure. That somehow failing is almost a badge of honor among those that have succeeded.
For those that have yet to truly succeed, they are almost ok with the concept of failure. Failing, while painful is certainly not distasteful, and will teach valuable lessons for the next, almost guaranteed, success.
But is that true? Is the cycle fail then success then fail then success? We have seen “one trick ponies” that succeed at the first thing they try and then never succeed (or fail) again at equal levels. We have seen people that consistently fail, never quite tasting success. People who hide their overall failures with several minor success.
So, if failure doesnt equal success consistently, then does the type of failure matter or the depth of the failure?
Certainly certainly types of failure can either spurn someone on to great success (say seeing both your parents killed by a common criminal spurs you to become Batman) or a life of consistent failure (I suppose if I had an example, they wouldnt be a huge failure…)
Can people handle professional failure to greater depths than personal failure (there are many cases of very successful business people going through a cycle of great wealth/horrible bankruptcy.)?
The great ones. The folks that truly are able to succeed in ways that most people cannot have very similar characteristics:
- They compartmentalize their personal lives from their professional ones. Success in one does not directly effect the sense of success in the other.
- Small failures are seen as opportunities rather than roadblocks. Large failures are seen as part of the process not the destination.
- They separate emotion from small successes and failures. Small successes and failures dont exist because of them as people, but because of their actions.
- Great failures are met with mourning, followed by an intense desire to “make up for the failure.” Great failure is deeply personal and embarrassing.
- Highly competitive where exact measures of success and failure are determined internally.
- Complete disregard for other’s measure of success and failure.
- The ability to get others to help in the success.
- Complete ownership of all failures.
- Scientific review of success and failure.
- Freedom to discuss failure with others. A clear openness about the failures of their past.
People who have succeeded in life are not immune from the devastating effects of failure, they have learned how to turn failure into motivation or education.
People who are successful have learned to do two things: 1) define their own personal success; and 2) come to grips that no failure is final, regardless of how big, or personal it is.
When the Chicago Bulls won 72 games in a single season, and eventually the NBA championship, Phil Jackson, their coach was asked what their formula for success was. Among the things he said, he recounted how for him and his team, winning the third quarter was paramount. “It makes the fourth quarter, easy,” he said.
Successful people are the same way. Its not the failure that defines their success, but rather what the very next thing they do. Its the adjustments they make, and the ferocity that they come back. Successful people are defined by their bounce, not their ball.
Even if they have to do the fourth Fast and the Furious movie…