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The Value of Failure 

By Jonathan Miskin

 

J.K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, spoke to the graduating class of Harvard in June 2008. “You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling told her audience. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all−in which case, you fail by default. She should know. The author didn’t magically become richer than the Queen of England overnight. Penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter.

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MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN NEWSLETTERS
MARCH 2015

 

 

Let’s address the impact of the word ‘failure’ from the beginning. What an annoying word, so much so that almost everyone prefers to avoid the topic, either sub-consciously or even consciously. 

 

There are many definitions of failure, and even more for success. However, the definition of failure might be easier to simplify. In a nutshell, it could be said that failure is not achieving one’s goal – whatever that goal may be. 

 

Success cannot be simplified to the same extent for the mere fact that each of the over 6-billion people on this planet would have different quantitative and/or qualitative measurements of success, for example, measurement according to their specific personality, age, gender, place of residence, financial situation, education, upbringing as a child, religion, etc.

 

Although failure as well as the fear of failure affects us all, regardless of race, colour or creed, it frequently seems as though failure in the corporate and business world is often a lot more severe for women than for men − for the simple reason that, although women have adapted well to this environment since the abolishment of discrimination against women in business (‘the workplace’) and although women are strong enough to take care of themselves, there is a lot more ongoing, sometimes hidden, and never-ending emotional pressure on a woman to prove herself to herself, and her colleagues, as a business ‘equal’.  

 

Again, many women, in accessing their defensive ‘I can look after myself’ attitude, would deny this statement of perceived dependency. Women are in nature more emotional, they were born with this gift – without it we wouldn’t have the example of good mothers and caring sisters our planet is blessed with today. Men are naturally stronger, more physically focussed; it’s all about raw power in comparison to the inherent softer and gentler side of a lady. In essence, women and men need each other on various levels of existence, whether either party likes to admit it or not.

 

The Role of the ‘Modern Woman’

Roles have changed dramatically over the past few decades with some individual women claiming their full right to success – without the poignant bits unnecessarily protruding anywhere (at least in public).

 

Women are masters at being strong on the surface yet fragile and vulnerable behind the facade of strength and equanimity. Many women will be quick to refute the need for any help or assistance in certain situations, however, they often are crying out for support in silence to themselves and sometimes, in opportune or desperate moments, their closest girl friends (or guy friends) after working hours. 

 

This is why a great portion of men, as somewhat of a ruffian species; find it difficult to understand the affect they have when being seemingly forceful, abrupt and ‘hard’ on a woman in the business environment – something men naturally and socially live by, in word or deed,  among their male peers on a daily basis. 

 

Interestingly enough, women wouldn’t necessarily want it any other way since they often want and sometimes need, by rare admission, the innate masculinity (a shoulder), protection (physique), confidence (manly attitude) and raw strength (muscles) of a man (oh, while we’re placing the order - preferably handsome and wealthy too).

 

It’s a fact; men have had both the privilege and the ‘curse’ of being part of this business environment for much longer than women. Work advice has been passed from father to son for many more generations than for women. Although men are definitely also affected by failure, due to their naturally less emotional approach, it would almost seem as though the ‘tough guy’ approach and a beer after work sees them through the more challenging times.

 

Women Need Mentorship!

Although many great women have fought the battle since the 1950s and come out on top of the proverbial ladder, there are gaps in the continuum and sustainability of generational success. As with young men, young ladies are sometimes too shy to ask questions at the risk of sounding less intelligent or inexperienced – youngsters, especially young girls or ladies, are normally quite conscious of their personal image as they constantly feel judged by men and other women.

 

What is the solution? Mentorship is very effective. Constant, ongoing and continuous mentorship has proved to be a key factor in the successful development of young talent. Ongoing support and advice from ladies (or men) who have made it through the battlefield of modern business, with all its challenges and ‘red tape’, and succeeded in the end is greatly valued and readily absorbed by young minds wanting to reach similar heights.  

 

Entrepreneurship and the Economy

Government is currently investing large amounts of money in to entrepreneurship – for men and women – in order to boost our economy. Entrepreneurship is constantly being encouraged, yet many people, male and female, are still guarded at attempting to follow their dreams, or even just a simple business plan/idea in fear of failure. 

 

This fear may of course be due to a number of contributing factors, including financial constraints and other financial commitments, family responsibilities, lack of knowledge/education, being too young or too old, too tall or too short, lack of experience, injustices of the past or uncertainty of the future, and whatever other individual excuses we decide to come up with in order to avoid taking the chance of a calculated risk towards reaching an ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime goal or ‘dream’. 

 

Yes, believe it or not, even if you believe in re-incarnation, we only have one shot at achieving what we currently perceive to be our ‘dream’/goal – especially in the current vessel/body/form we occupy. Essentially, we have one of two choices (such a cliché), either we do it, or we don’t − either way, whatever we choose, the excuses become a load of white noise which doesn’t really matter when we realise it’s our last moment on earth as we know it. 

 

Learning and Growth to counter failure

Eventually we all fail at something – whether we know it or not, or even if we want to know it or not.It has been said by many successful people who have been through the process of failing, before ultimately succeeding, that if someone has never failed, they have never tried – especially since the people who have succeeded believe that one needs to fail first in order to learn from one’s mistakes (over and over again) in order to attain ultimate success (i.e. reaching one’s personal goal). 

 

Simply put, if we never try we will never fail (great excuse), and if we never fail or make mistakes we don’t have a point of reference in terms of learning, and therefore cannot succeed over the short or long term (sustained success). 

 

Since failure is never final, as long as we persist without excuses, male or female, learning from our mistakes allows us to ultimately reach our personal goals and ‘dreams’. So what’s your choice?

 

annelizew@ceomag.co.za 

 

 

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