Well, well, well, I certainly did not intend to highlight the ‘F’ word, made of four letters, that forms part of the “expletives” vocabulary.
What I wanted to highlight is the fact that while success is highly celebrated and appreciated, and pursued relentlessly almost by everyone, the role and importance of Failure, and the lessons that one can learn from it for the future, is almost always lost by most.
There are several books, quotes, poems and even biographies that do bring to attention the importance of failures and how they are important stepping stones to future successes. One of the quotes on Failure that I do recall is ‘success has many fathers while failure is an orphan’. Despite several sincere attempts, the F word is yet to get the prominence it truly deserves.
Way back in the mid nineties, my wife and I lost everything in our business, and became bankrupt. We owed to our relatives, friends, private financiers, and of course banks, a huge amount of money that would probably be equivalent of a crore of rupees today. Call it a failure, a series of wrong steps, poor choice of decisions, following poor advice, a gamble that didn’t play out, fate, destiny, or any other name, but as the bard said “A rose by any other name smells just as sweet”, “A Failure by any other name smells just as terrible”.
It took six years of struggle, hardships, sleepless nights, a few serious thoughts, and even an attempt to end our lives were what we went through before we could return every single penny that we owed to our creditors.
What we learnt going through that “struggle” phase following our business failure, and the subsequent turnaround is invaluable and immeasurable. This cannot be taught in any business school or a program. Some of our most important learnings are:
- Every consequence is a result of YOUR choice. Choose wisely!
- Reframe the problem statement. Newer solutions will emerge.
- Seek help. Help is always available.
- Adapt and change and don’t get stuck with the problem
- Reach out. Build new relationships. Keep up the old ones.
- Manage money smartly.
I did my MEP from IIM A, and it helped immensely to rebuild our finances by starting my career afresh. But the complete turnaround from bankruptcy to self sufficiency took about twelve years and it was during the recovery phase we decided on what we would do in our lives once we reach our financial goals.
The four phases, being in business, bankruptcy, recovery and financial independence, taught us lessons for our life including searching for meaning and purpose in our lives. Our life purpose is to transform lives through giving. In the year 2012, we set up ShikshaDaan that provides scholarships to talented students who wish to pursue their higher education but are financially constrained.
Parents, teachers, friends and society at large should encourage children from an early age that it’s ok to Fail, but you need to learn your lessons and move forward. It’s fine to glorify success but one should never underestimate the role and relevance of failures. I saw on TV a part of the town hall that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook had with students of IIT, Delhi, wherein he emphasised the need to make mistakes and learn to move forward with the insights. In fact he mentioned that through their journey till now they have made tonnes of mistakes but what mattered was they focuses on what they did right and learnt from every mistake.
If we cannot accept mistakes and failures as individuals and also as part of our work culture, we are not designing ourselves for success. The F word has to become acceptable.