In this fast-paced world, it can be challenging to slow down and celebrate the little wins. Yet the research says that when you celebrate incremental wins, you and your teams are more motivated and encouraged to push toward the big wins.
So why in the world would we celebrate failures on a regular basis?!
Last fall I listened to an interview with Sara Blakely, the $1B founder of Spanx. She shared her path to brilliant success with Guy Raz, the podcast host of “How I Built This.” She said she credits her bravery and boldness to pursue her dreams against incredible odds to an invaluable lesson her dad taught her when she was growing up.
Every night at the dinner table, Sara’s dad would ask her and her brother what they FAILED at that day. He didn’t ask for the wins or successes. He cheered on the failures!
By celebrating the failures, Sara learned it was better to try than not try at all, and the sting of failing was minimized. As a result, her confidence and risk-tolerance soared. Sara went on to become the youngest female billionaire in the world! (If you don’t already follow Sara on Instagram, do so. She’s inspiring.)
Oprah shares a similar perspective. She says, “Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” Each failure has the opportunity to point you in a direction that is better suited for you.
If failing propelled Oprah and Sara to create extraordinary work that helps millions of people, then I decided I would do my best to embrace failure, too.
As an experiment, I began celebrating failures with a colleague. Our goal was to grow our businesses and push ourselves to be more bold. There were things we knew we needed to do, but were feeling scared to do them. So we decided to text one another every time we got a “no,” lost a proposal or perceived a rejection.
I’m not going to lie. It was scary and felt a bit humiliating to share a failure with my peer. As a recovering perfectionist I had convinced myself into thinking that it was bad to fail.
But something magical happened. Whenever my friend texted her failure, I began feeling disappointed if I didn’t have a failure to text back. By not having many failures to report, I knew I wasn’t putting myself out there – I wasn’t pushing myself to grow. Plus, I wasn’t building my resilience muscles which are critical to achieving stretch goals.
Another magical discovery I learned – I no longer perceived failure as bad! Failure truly was becoming a stepping stone in my mind to achieving my dreams.
I was approached by one of my dream companies to present a workshop for one of their divisions. I was thrilled and confident they wanted to partner with me – they seeked me out, after all. A friend told me that this opportunity was “career changing.” My hopes were high.
I crafted a proposal and waited to hear back from them. Several weeks later I was told they didn’t want to move forward.
I was bummed. No, I was really bummed. At first, I didn’t even think to celebrate the failure. My heart wasn’t in it. A day later a reminder popped up on my phone asking me to “Celebrate a failure or a ‘No.’” I had previously scheduled it as a silent alarm.
In that moment, I actually felt relief! The pop-up alarm had awakened my perception of failure into something I wanted to celebrate. I realized this particular experience really wasn’t an epic fail. It was a stepping stone for even bigger opportunities.
That same week I received an email from another wonderful company asking for an even bigger partnership, and I was more prepared to pursue it.
Do you have a habit of celebrating failures already? If so, how has this habit helped you? I would love for you to share one lesson or insight your practice has taught you in the comments below.
If you don’t regularly celebrate failures, are you game for trying to do so this week? Comment “I’m game” in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear about your progress!
Celebrating failures with you always,
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Let's connect and begin a conversation. My passion is equipping leaders with strategies to accelerate success, develop high performing teams and build cultures where employees are inspired to work their best. - Jennifer Spaulding, Leadership & Executive Coach
At officer school in the army we always shared failures in the group as an intervention; everyone could then learn from a colleague's experience of self-development and how to get through certain barriers everyone could relate to . It was with the mindset that Failure is adjustable learning (Danish version makes it an agronym: FEJL: Fejl Er Justerbar Læring)