Failure is a Good Outcome. So this week I set out to achieve a significant objective. I made sure that was measurable, and that I had key strategies planned for each day of the week.
The result? I failed. I did not meet the measure. I intended to get one new client interested in a product or service that I got from an new outreach campaign. I wanted to learn the modern way of doing this. If you understand what it means to create an outbound sales stack, you will know that this was ambitious.
I almost was successful. I pushed hard, but I have to admit failure. I also spent the week travelling, which cramped my time. I was not able to dedicate as much time as I should, and as a result, failed.
Yet, is failure a bad thing?
Most my life, I have avoided failure at all costs. “Failure is not an option.” That was my rallying cry. I have now changed. Failure is the goal. I actually want to push to failure and I am setting out with the purpose and intent to fail. Why?
If you push to failure, you grow. You improve. You produce results. Not the aspirational results, but you fall short with progress. Falling short, yet making a giant leap of progress. That is what failure produces. Then you start over, rebuild and try again. Each time you do this, you get better until your original goal looks easy.
I find myself leading sales teams now that I am not the young hot shot tech kid anymore. I have learned to set audacious, impossible goals. They look at me with shock and horror. After the initial shock is over, we plan out how we could achieve the impossible. We create a plan and then we go give it a shot. We want to go get 5 new clients that are each producing us 1M in profit this quarter. Impossible. We create the plan and go try. We fail. We only got 2. What the sales team did not realize that the 2 was also impossible. They figured that out. They pushed hard and only got 2. That 2 was still a great outcome.
I want to bench press 100 lbs says the scrawny kid. He goes to the gym and tries until he cannot lift anymore. Could only bench 60 at the most. Muscles sore and tired the kid goes home, dejected. Yet, he comes back and tries again. The torn down muscles that had failed are now stronger. He gets to 62 this time and feels better. Yet failed. Try again. Fail. Try again. Fail. A year later, this same young man is bench pressing 150 lbs and the 100 seems like a distant dream. Failure is the goal.
We must push to fail. Stop setting goals to win. Stop creating layups. I sat in a big sales kick off where the executive team actually came out with what they thought was exciting news. This year we are not planning to grow that much. We are only going to ask the org to grow by some small percentage. They thought that this would go over well. They thought that everyone would be happy. We have a great chance of hitting your numbers! Getting to your bonus targets! The executive team was giddy with excitement. This had the opposite effect. They team was sitting there perplexed. Huh? That is not exciting or inspiring. That is, “meh.”
Humans love to achieve the impossible. They want unobtainable, aspirational ideas. By setting your team up to fail, you stretch them. Now you may think that this is deflating. Constant failure, must lead to discouragement, right? Wrong. A culture that learns to fail is a culture that excels. A culture that is afraid of failure, is never impressive. A culture that avoids failure, is a culture that will attract mediocre talent. A culture that fails is a culture that wins.
My biggest growth opportunities have always come from failure. I heard someone say recently that “failure doesn’t exist until you make an excuse for it.” Failure=opportunity.
I am starting to believe that failure and growth are the same concept.