Failing To Succeed

August 17, 2016

Jump over gapJeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, took a unique approach when he launched his delivery service AmazonFresh. Rather than choosing individuals who had experienced success in a similar business, he hired individuals who had failed.
Bezos believed that these individuals brought something to the table that was worth much more than high grades, awards, and an impressive resume. Rather, they brought invaluable insight they gained to overcome their recent challenges. These individuals thought outside of the box, and were willing to take risks without letting the fear of failure stand in their way. They never perceived failure as a negative experience, but rather asked themselves what they could learn from that particular experience. Bezos’s approach paid off, and his business has become extremely successful in recent years.
Failure is inevitable, and is a natural part of our lives. However, your perception of failure will determine the way that you handle it.
My former student, Gloria, stared in the face of failure more than most while she pursued her dreams of post-secondary education. Between 1980 and 2004, she enrolled and dropped out of the University of Saskatchewan a staggering 15 times. It was not for lack of effort, she was simply unable to complete a program.
It was not until 2001 when an Aboriginal support worker approached Gloria to explore why she was unable to achieve academic success. After convincing her to get an assessment, it became evident that Gloria had a learning disability. While this insight provided Gloria with an explanation for her recent challenges, she was still unable to complete a program. After 15 years of university, she walked away with only two years of credits.
In 2013, Gloria entered my classroom, determined to be an addictions counsellor. She took advantage of the various resources available and fought her way through the program. At the age of 55, Gloria marched triumphantly across the stage and received her diploma. Her strong skill set immediately led to employment as a case manager. Today, she empowers others to dig deep and persevere through their own personal challenges.
Failure is subjective in nature. Only you have the power to decide whether something is viewed as a failure. While the educational institutions and instructors labeled her as a failure, Gloria understood that she was everything but a failure. She never let herself become defined by her failures and never gave up.
I firmly believe that only a small portion of our growth comes from our successes. Meanwhile, most of our growth stems from our failures. Instead of teaching people how to succeed, perhaps we need to do a better job of teaching people how to fail.
*The above is an excerpt from my latest book “Goodbye Stress. Hello Life!”


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