This phrase is not my own, but I immediately embraced it upon hearing it. I had the privilege of spending a day recently with university and alumni leaders from little known but much admired University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. During their first national Alumni Leadership Day, a brief interactive presentation featured 4 undergraduate guys pursuing entrepreneurship.
While chatting during a break, I ask Giotto, one of the presenters, about the business he started–a professional speaker booking/promoter/agent role for the guy who crafted the “failure isn’t fatal” phrase. We talked about how Giotto interpretted that message. Jeez, I LOVE listening to and learning from Millennials. To hear Giotto talk about how he and his entrepreneurial college buddies pursue their business ideas, relying on each other to boost them past their own fears and insecurities….it was truly inspiring.
Did I mention….I LOVE learning from Millennials?!
This encounter got me to thinking about so many of the conversations I have with organizational leaders. Fear of failure (or embarrassment, or inadequacy, or uncertainty, or…or…or…) is rampant. Leaders have so much responsibility to shoulder, yet they seem to miss or dismiss Giotto’s observation: “when I get stuck, I rely on my colleagues to get me unstuck.” Wow. Simple…and hard. This speaks to personal courage, trust, and authencity. Imagine asking for help and leading collaboratively in this wildly dynamic and complex environment!
And when did we come to believe that failure was absolute and to be avoided at all costs? There are countless references to addressing this issue in modern literature. Consider FDR’s “all we have to fear is fear itself.” …or Tom Peters admonition from the 1980’s: “fail, forward, fast.”
Failure ISN’T fatal. Failing to try something is fatal, as a part of you dies each time.