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Pursuing Failure
By Barton Goldsmith

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

Most people dislike the idea of failure, but think about it; the only way not to fail is by not trying. Wouldn't you rather your people pursue failure - to attempt new ideas, seek to bring in new clients, and try to create new products, than not? If your people are not allowed to fail, they will not grow. If you cannot encourage your team to reach new heights by giving them a safety net (not firing them if they fail), then how will you take your company to the next level?

From 0 to 50...Million

This philosophy has helped a number of companies reach the top of their markets. Take for example Mid-America Direct, the largest Corvette after-market parts company in the world. CEO Mike Yager continues to encourage his team to try new ideas, and he doesn't punish them if the ideas don't work right away. He believes that with support, his team members will reach deep within themselves and create new income streams for the company. He continues to remind them that they are part of a team and that they are supported, by him and by each other. Even if their ideas don't work, he is pleased that they are attempting to push the envelope. To further inspire his people, they also get personal rewards for continued efforts in improving the company.

Yager started his company with a vision, ideas like this, and not much else. After reaching the top of his industry, two years ago he decided to take on two new catalogues (VW and Porsche) and is watching them grow with the same velocity. He believes that the only thing that can turn a challenge into a failure is not learning from it. He also believes in continuing education for his team and brings in the best speakers and trainers in the country to help his people reach the next level.

Act As If
Henry Ford said, "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently". Being able to look at your failures and learn from them is a definition of wisdom. To be able to see them clearly, as steps to your goals, gives you energy and inspiration. If you beat yourself up, and become listless with self-loathing, your goals become harder to reach. The energy you put into anger just holds you, and your people, back. If you have difficulty grasping this idea, here's a way to see how it actually works.

The next time you or one of your team members fails, don't chastise them (or yourself). Hold back your anger or disappointment and "act as if" (pretend) that it was part of the process. See it as a step in the right direction. Talk with your team, and explain that you believe that this supposed "failure" is taking you closer to your goal. Explain to them (and yourself) that without the lessons learned from this failure, you would not have the information and experience necessary to achieve success. Then see if you don't reach the next level quicker and easier than if you spent time and energy wallowing in blame, anger and disappointment. This isn't some kind mind game; it's a necessary step in growing your business that has been used by some of the most successful leaders and companies in the world.

Beyond Failure
Perhaps the most important job of a Mentor is to help their people learn from their mistakes. This is the learning that comes from experience, and it's the most valuable learning we get. By supporting your team and yourself in this kind of thinking, you are creating a company culture that will inspire your team to make your business grow. Most successful people will honestly tell you that they reached their goals by making lots of mistakes. The Mentor's job is to encourage their people to reach beyond their failures, mistakes and fears, and use the lessons learned to achieve success. Work to encourage your team to pursue failure, and they will respond by pushing the envelope all the way to the top.


Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., has started, grown and sold 3 companies. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker, business consultant, and author, who presents to numerous companies, associations and leaders worldwide. He works regularly with The Young President’s Organization (YPO), The Executive Committee (TEC) and The Council of Growing Companies. Dr. Goldsmith writes for the Los Angeles Business Journal, and is a contributing author to over 70 business publications and trade journals. He can be contacted through his web site at: www.BartonGoldsmith.com or at (818) 879-9996



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