October 13th was the international day for failure. What a recognition! I love it. While failure is frowned upon the world over, some students from Aalto university in Finland found it wise to initiate the idea of a day solely dedicated to the celebration of failure. One would expect the idea to originate from a part of the world where failure is seen more as the norm than the exception. This idea came from Finland, a country we wouldn’t associate with failure or poverty.
But there is a downside even to the good life. Students from Aalto university noticed that many Finns feared to start businesses lest they fail. The country needed more startups but a typical Finn abhors failure. We could say that folks there are guaranteed success in almost everything they do and as a result are poorly equipped to handle failure. Too much success can make us shallow and unable to handle life’s challenges when they come, not if they come. We must build our inner man as we go through life. My mum calls them shock absorbers to handle the rough stretches of Maisha.
The day was meant to remove the stigma so that more Fins could venture into business. I’m not sure if the idea worked but the fact that we are celebrating it twelve years after it was founded in 2010 we can assume they achieved their goal. The idea was so good that international day of failure is now celebrated globally, though I just got to learn about it last week from a friend.
The day is to recognise that making mistakes and failing is normal and is an important part of our personal growth and success. Society tends to focus on success stories mostly. We shine the light on folks who are doing well and rarely show how they got there. We should not shy away from our failures because that is where most growth happens. If we only talk about what we have done well then we deny ourselves and others the valuable lessons that failure and difficulty have taught us. Some of us are where we are because of the disappointments we went through. Failure is key to success. I’m learning to even thank Sir God for the failures I’ve gone through and also for not answering some of the prayers I have made.
One key failure I have carried with me has been the end of my tent business. The plan was to sell the business or hand it over to someone else to scale it then I just give oversight from the board level and enjoy my dividend. That didn’t happen so we closed it last year. I feel I didn’t finish well. With time as I coach people through halftime transitions, I use that illustration when doing the sigmoid curve of my journey. If I started planning my exit before the business plateaued then maybe I would have exited better. I learnt (and often share) that past success is the biggest enemy of future success. It’s important to start planning your next season of life before you max out on the current one.
It’s been much harder for me to start my new curve when my older one was declining. Such wisdom could only come from the painful experience I have gone through in biashara. I’ve had to pay for sleeping on the job. I was a victim of my success. Some lessons cannot be taught in class and that’s why a day to celebrate failure is a cool idea. Where we proudly wear our scars as badges and mingle with fellow failures in life.
I like hanging out with positive failures. These are folks who keep falling and get up. When we admit that we have failed, a weight is lifted off our shoulders followed by some motivation to excel. Failure loves (and even thrives) in secrecy. And that’s why a day like October 13th is good. We get to own up and discover that we are not alone in the baggage we carry. We then begin to learn from our mistakes and the baggage turns into stepping stones towards progress. Let’s look at failure as the discovery of one more way not to do something.
Folks may we be less hostile to our failures for therein could lie the key to unlocking the future we desire and deserve. Are you ashamed? could the shame be what’s holding back a breakthrough? As long as you continue putting in the effort then you are not a failure. Failure to me is when we stop trying, give up and accept our current reality as final (which can become fatal).
I currently draw a lot of lessons from my entrepreneurship journey that I use when coaching on transitions. The areas I failed the most (like what I consider a poor exit from my business) somehow validate what I talk about. I feel like I have earned the right to help others on their journey from one season to the next. It’s a practical approach and not a theoretical one. I’m now kinda glad how things turned out, the good, bad and the ugly. Truly all things work together for good.
Let’s befriend failure. Failure is good and can be a great ally of success. Remember to celebrate your failures often, even as we wait for October 13th of next year.
PS. Want to turn those failures into accelerators to a life of significance, joy and impact? consider signing up for our next halftime roundtable starting November 5th. See poster on this wall or DM for details.