Meeting with a group of colleagues in Edinburgh last night, where I talked about a dismal meeting I’d recently had, I was reminded that failure is something all ambitious people share. The goal should always be to ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ when you’re experimenting with a new idea. Even so, setbacks are as demoralising as they are inevitable. Interestingly, a number of the world’s richest women achieved their success only after a series of set backs. In Britain, we are all familiar with JK Rowling’s plight as a struggling single mum, who received 12 rejections before eventually selling over 45o million copies of her world famous Harry Potter series.
In the US, Oprah Winfrey, is the most successful talk show host in the world and is worth $2.9 billion, but her career path was far from smooth. Winfrey was criticised by executives at a Baltimore TV station for being too emotionally involved in the story lines in her early career as an anchor. Instead of ‘distancing herself’ she capitalised on this difference and focused on turning it to a strength; her ability to connect and engage with people. Another media mogul, Arianna Huffington, openly acknowledges 36 publishing rejections for her second book and an unsuccessful political career under her belt. All this before she subsequently published 11 further books and sold her media company for $315 million in 2011.
Sara Blakely, is the world’s youngest female self made millionaire – but only as a result of failing the Law School Admission Test twice. After a brief stint working in Disney World Florida and a string a early career struggles, she became a successful entrepreneur at the tender age of 29 when she created the body-shape brand Spanx. Ultimately we need to be willing to learn that failure is not the final outcome. Using the wise words of Blakely, “I think failure is nothing more than life’s way of nudging you that you are off course”. Get back up, brush off and start again.
What failure has led you to a better path?