Don’t fear failure

In 1923 Babe Ruth broke the record for the most home runs in a season. That same year he also broke the record for the highest batting average. What many people don’t know is that year he also struck out more than any other player in Major League Baseball.

Babe Ruth was not afraid to swing for the fences no matter the strike count. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy striking out, but he enjoyed hitting home runs and having a high batting average so much that he wasn’t afraid to strike out.

Too many leaders want to play not to lose. They are so afraid of striking out that they minimize their chances to fail. That also means they minimize their chances for success.

Those of us in leadership roles cannot be afraid to fail. In fact, some people challenge us to fail often because it is in our failures that we can learn some of our greatest lessons, and it is through those failures that we can earn our greatest successes. A person who never fails is one who never attempts new things. This is a person unwilling to stretch himself or herself thereby ensuring that he or she will remain stuck in ruts of their own making. A rut is sometimes describes as a grave with both ends kicked out. There’s not much life in graves, and there’s not much life found in ruts either.

Success comes when we stretch ourselves to explore new things, new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking. It refuses to accept the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Instead, success comes when we realize that “If it ain’t broke, we need to break it because it will soon be obsolete anyway.”

We are living in a time when many of our institutions are going through transition. Old ways of doing things will not be effective on the other side of these transitions. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know with certainty what will change and what will not change, but change is occurring, and it’s happening rapidly. The challenge is to stay ahead of that change, and to do that will require some speculation on our part. Sometimes we will guess wrong and fail. When such failure happens we have to be able to recognize the failure and adapt a new approach.

Failure is never final unless it causes us to give up. It is just part of our growth as leaders and one pathway to eventual success. Keep swinging for the fences.

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