Failure is a powerful attractor of attention. Some people assume that we only learn from failure. They advise that we examine our failures and improve. I fully concur. Yet there can be a complementary process based on learning from success.
Often I share a description of a scene from Dead Poets Society. In it, Mr. Keating, the teacher, encounters a boy who believes he has no voice. Because of his belief the boy failed to fulfill an assignment to write a poem. In real time, Mr. Keating creates a radical experience in which the boy transforms. In front of the class, the boy creates a poem of extraordinary power. The boy, the teacher and the class are left with a sense of awe.
I often ask, will the boy be different? The participants are certain he will never be the same. He has learned from a radical success that he has a voice. This creates hope and investment.
I ask, will the class will be different? This takes more thought. Yet eventually they conclude that, having witnessed the transformation and the power of learning, the next day the class will have a modified culture. They have learned from a radical success in another that they have potential they have not yet realized. This creates hope and investment.
I ask, will the teacher will be different? This requires even more thought. Then it becomes clear that if you are the initiator of a transformational process you do not walk out of the room and forget about it. It holds your attention. You examine your success and squeeze from it the principles that will allow you to make greater contributions in the future. The teacher learns from his own radical success that he or she has potential not yet realized. This creates hope and investment.
It is important that we examine our failures and the failures of others. We can learn from mistakes. It is important that we examine our successes and the successes of others. We can learn from triumphs. The first tends to teach us what to avoid while the second tends to teach us what to embrace.
- List the most radical successes in your life.
- What do you learn from examining the list?
- In what way does the examination create hope and investment?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?