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September 11, 2012 / Mervyn Dinnen

Is Success Overrated?

success failure

Earlier today I posted this blog about a recent event where social media practitioners shared their success secret. Doug Shaw commented and included the thought that that we shouldn’t only focus on success but should look at failures too.

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve recently had conversations with the organisers of 2 upcoming events in which they’ve asked for my input on content. There are two things I’ve told them:

  • Most attendees will not be from big brands but will be representing smaller businesses with small or negligible budgets. They usually need simple, low budget, easy to implement ideas that will help them get buy in when they get back to basecamp.
  • Most attendees will also want to know what went wrong, what was been tried and failed. If you’ve got a sceptical stakeholder to convince this is important.

We can all draw inspiration from the successes of others, but we can also learn from their failures. We don’t share enough lessons learned from failure; maybe it’s a human weakness not to want to admit that decisions we have made have not worked out. Kevin Ball recently blogged ‘Reflect on everything; Regret nothing’ and maybe this is something we need to take out there. As FlipChart Fairy Tales wrote a few months ago ‘The inevitable failure to study failure means that management can never be truly evidenced based‘.

To be fair to the speakers at the Social Success event, they did share mistakes. The event was quite informal and the nature of the format maybe allowed for some more reflective content.

Success is usually a journey and not a destination…in the echo chamber though it’s easy to brush failure under the carpet, to turn it into a joke rather than one backward step along a continuing path.

Should we be sharing our failures more?

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2 Comments

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  1. Ed / Sep 11 2012 3:10 PM

    Good questions, Mervyn. It’s not just human weakness to want to avoid admitting where things may not have succeeded: it’s the weight of organisational cultural and practices too, especially (in my own experience) in smaller organisations. Of course we all want to be our own biggest cheerleaders, but all that pom-pom waving can come at the expense of learning sometimes.

    Mistakes are hugely educational. Some enormously successful people have said so (albeit not necessarily on their way up). Peter Drucker: “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” Ornetter Coleman: “It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.“
    Gandhi: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” If everything goes right, we don’t stop to ask questions, but without questions we don’t get answers. I like the example of the skater in Matthew Syed’s Bounce: “Landing on your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from.” But our organisations are gearing to showing off our medals, not examining our bruises.

  2. Desiree / Sep 17 2012 9:51 PM

    I love the idea here. Every person that has achieved any kind of success in both their personal lives and professional lives, dealt with failure along the way. Sharing those failures (and what you learned from them) can help so many people. Sometimes what is considered a failure for one person, might actually work in the favor of another. Everyone is different and sharing the road bumps you experienced on your road to success will not only help you in the future, but others as well!

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