Failing Successfully

Do you feel that half the things you do turn out all wrong? If so, take heart, because not only are you doing really well, we will discover how to fail even more successfully.

As we near our 50th anniversary in business, we at TPI consider ourselves pretty successful. The company started by Lou and Diane Tice in their basement has had a presence in over 60 countries, and the education that Lou once gave to small groups of teachers and coaches in the early 1970’s has now reached millions of people around the world. Many of these recipients have been world leaders and corporate executives.

But one of the reasons we are successful is the same reason that Ty Cobb, one of the greatest baseball sluggers of all time, was as good as he was. If you look in the record books, you will find that Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .367. That means he got a hit once out of every three times at bat. It’s the same story for baseball greats Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and for virtually every other successful person in the world. We don’t “win” every time we “come to bat.”

We need not be afraid to try, nor should we be afraid to fail. In fact, the only real failure is in not trying at all. It turns out that people really don’t remember the times Hank Aaron swung and missed, only the times the ball sailed out of the ballpark.

For the most part, we learn more from failure than we do from immediate success. It is in learning what not to do “the next time” that provides for greater success when we do try, the next time. And, “the next time…” is critical, because it is a direct connection to our persistence and resilience, and our personal or organizational efficacy.

The fact is that successful people try more things more often than average folks do. Whether it’s playing baseball, building an international business, selling a new product, or solving safety issues at the job site, if we try enough things, we’re going to succeed – a lot. And we are going to learn even more. It is only in not trying that our “batting average” will end up at zero.

Yes, there is always going to be some risk involved. Risk is a part of life, and involved in nearly everything that we do. We can plan for some, if not most of those risks.

So, in the final analysis, what do we really have to lose when we try?