One day I ordered a stock of printed folders for my boss. This wasn’t small potatoes, either; this single order cost upwards of $1000 and I ordered them thinking I had done everything I needed to to proof and double check them.
The order came back and even though the folders were beautiful, I did what I call my panic proof review. I looked at all the information on the back, and low and behold I had entered the wrong zip code on the address.
A wave of panic flashed down my spine as my face burned red hot. I realized I had no choice…I had to admit my mistake. Well, I suppose I did have choices. I could have lied about it. I could have displace the blame on the printer. However, my boss had said a long time ago that if I ever made a mistake, he had my back. That instance flashed through my mind as I marched into his office. I held out the folder and proclaimed, I screwed up.
I showed him the mistake. His eyes rolled down, then back up at me.
He said, “Hold out your hand.” As I did, he lightly slapped it and said “Consider that your disciplinary action.”
Cool boss, eh? He’s someone who moves fast, boldly, and doesn’t usually let regret factor into his decisions. He just acts, and he expect the same out of his employees.
This is called creating a culture of risk taking. Knowing that you’re in a place where it’s safe to go out on a limb and try things, act quickly, and know that not everything is going to be perfect. There’s a sense of safety because you’re allowed to screw up.
I remember hearing Bill Bartmann, a billionaire entrepreneur, talk about that in his company, they would actually celebrate mistakes by going across to the bar across the street when somebody would lose a million dollar account because of a mistake.
If you’re in a place where you’re not afraid of screwing up, what could you achieve? Would you become more aggressive? Would you work harder?
What if you applied that to your own life, and not just a work situation. What if “failure” is just a mental construct that would no longer apply to whatever you’re holding yourself back from trying? What would you try?
The point is: don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is not an end result. It’s a speed bump along the road to success. And no one ever gets to any level of success without failing a ton of times.