However you define success or failure, you can learn from either. I was reminded of this when reading Harvard Business Review’s issue on failure (available online: http://hbr.org/archive-toc/BR1104). The importance of failure is we can choose to understand our failure, learn from it, and recover from it. Thinking of failure as a learning tool can help us change our philosophy of reprimanding people for failures to being someone who encourages our teams to be creative and innovative in their thinking. Successful leaders understand that some of the biggest successes may come from our biggest losses/failures.
With baseball season’s opening day this week, here are two great examples of the links between failure, success, and your mindset related to my favorite obsession: the Boston Red Sox. In 2012, the team strategy included expensive stars and what some called a flamboyant manager. The team had its worst record since 1965. The manager was openly confrontational with players. Players fought amongst themselves and aired their grievances with the manager’s decisions in the media. I remember a Sports Illustrated article entitled “The Epic Red Sox Fail” saying it took the Red Sox being that bad in 2012 to disown what they had become.
What did the Sox learn from their massive failure? Owners replaced the manager and shed their expensive players for talented players and a manager willing to and capable of building a team culture of solidarity (This was best shown by the players’ decision to grow beards for Beard Nation.), mutual respect, shared leadership, and accountability. And with that change came success: they team went from 65 wins and 93 losses in 2012 to 97 wins and 65 losses in 2013. This wasn’t the first time the team turned failure into success.
Almost a decade earlier in 2004, it was almost universally accepted that the Red Sox would never become World Champions after failing for 86 years. But a change in mindset was critical in the post-season. During the second round of the playoffs, the Sox were one game shy of losing the series. In a rallying cry to his teammates, first baseman Kevin Millar uttered the now famous phrase “Cowboy Up” as a challenge to his teammates to show more determination and get back on the horse they fell off of! While winning might be improbable, it was not impossible. They had 98 wins in the regular season. The Sox did win that and the next 7 games until claiming their World Series victory. Many attribute the wins to a team and a town (and this loyal fan) believing they could succeed.
What might change for you if you believed there’s only a thin line that separates success and failure?
What limiting beliefs are getting in your way?
What would your rallying speech be?
Are you ready to create your own success?