3 Reasons Why Failure is a Gift

Last Thursday I was visiting with a client in Indianapolis, a young business owner who founded his company in his 20s and has grown it to include 30 or so skilled staff and a geographic reach of several states. We were talking about failures and setbacks, and about the fact that neither of us knew – when we were children and when we were in our teens – that life would be filled with such trips, falls, setbacks, and, yes, “failures.” I put “failures” in quotes, not because a failure isn’t a failure, but because a failure is also a gift. It is, if we do the right things when we fail.

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My client had just read Ten Thousand Horses, and he started the conversation by quoting a line from the book.

Innovate! Try the untried. Do the thing that ‘can’t be done.’ The worst that’ll happen is you’ll stumble and fall. While you’re down there, why don’t you roll over onto your back and look up at the mind-boggling stars for a minute. Then get back up!” - Mike Wilson, Graduation Address 2006, High Summit Ranch

Being a brand new grandfather, I’m thinking quite a lot about the growing up process. More to the point, I’m thinking about my grandson, and also about his new parents. I’m remembering my boyhood, and also my young venture into parenthood a quarter of a century back. “Failure” was unthinkable back then – when I was a young boy and a young dad. “Failure” was judgment, condemnation, no-second-chances, embarrassment, shame. I knew then that I had to get it right, or at least pretend that I had.

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