Be Humble In The Face Of Failure
September 21, 2020
Every one of us encounters failures and losses at different times in our lives. A failure or a loss is not a problem if you learn something from it without letting it define you.
It would be nice if we can choose to change, grow, and learn from our mistakes.
It is not easy, though. It’s painful when we lose. We struggle to respond positively when we are numb from failure. How can we be strong when we feel emotionally distraught or defeated?
I have realized that during the many times I have failed, the pain is lesser from the actual mistake or loss and more from my ego and pride feeling punctured.
I remember this one instance where a business proposal of mine was shredded to bits by one of my difficult but brilliant bosses. In a roomful of peers, juniors, this boss of mine highlighted faults in my proposal openly. I felt humiliated and incompetent. After the meeting ended, I struggled to maintain eye contact with all my colleagues. Such was my pain.
I was seething inside. “How dare he point out the issues. They were not so big. He did it deliberately to insult me.” My boss became the object of my anger and defensiveness.
Someone said it nicely. Pride is concerned more about who is right while Humility is concerned more about what is right.
When I look back, my negativity was all stemming from my pride. All that boss of mine did was to point out mistakes and issues in my proposal. But, instead of recognizing the apparent errors and gaps in my effort, I became defensive, insecure, close-minded. I contemplated quitting.
Luckily, one of my mentors within the organization intervened. He reviewed the proposal I had prepared and told me that whatever my boss had pointed was valid and genuine. His feedback was that I let my pride come in the way of accepting honest feedback and not learning from the experience. He gave me an important life lesson that has stayed with me ever since.
One needs to be humble in the face of failure if one wants to learn and grow.
Taking the feedback in my stride, I reflected on what went wrong. It started with accepting that there were errors at my end, and my boss had nothing to do with those. I was able to quickly rectify the gaps and recover lost ground with my boss. I eventually became one of his most trusted teammates.
Mistakes are often our best teachers. When we are humble, we can learn from our mistakes and gain knowledge and wisdom.
I today have a 7 question framework to figure out my learnings from any failure.
- What went wrong
- When did it go wrong
- Where did it go wrong
- Why did it go wrong
- What did I do or not do that could have contributed to the failure.
- What are the lessons learned
- How will I apply the lesson learned in the future
Asking ourselves such questions can be uncomfortable, but the process is cathartic and always pays off. Mistakes and losses are all a natural part of life.
Being humble allows us to convert mistakes into life lessons that help us grow.