I learnt to fail early in life. I failed more as parents had high expectations from me. It is not about failing or realizing that you are failing. It is about how we respond to it. It is about how our environment responds to it.
A personal failure teaches lessons differently from a crisis which is related to family or workplace.
Childhood failures made me resilient.
I studied in a Central School where only children were present. Till middle school, I was unable to speak English which caused a lot of embarrassment in front of students from army background whose parents got posted to this remote town. They would bully me or laugh at me when I tried to speak in English. This sense of inadequacy made me struggle on my own. My father would subscribe to Reader’s Digest (I have a full collection of Reader’s Digest since 1969, thanks to him) (http://readersdigest.co.in/) and I would read it from cover to cover without understanding most of it. I persisted alone, spent nights with dictionaries, wrote word-meanings, underlined sentences and muttered to myself. I fell in love with English and turned around my failure.
I was short and failed in sports. As I didn’t enjoy it much and was generally the softest target during dodge ball and Kho Kho sessions, I accepted it. I chose a response of laughing with others at this weakness of mine. I learnt to celebrate this weakness by laughing at my failure at serious sports. (I tried tennis and badminton for two years before admitting it)
If parents allow children to fail naturally, it makes them confident for life. My 10th grade failure (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-good-storytellers-make-leaders-dr-swati-lodha?trk=mp-author-card) made me fearless for life. My parents and I learnt to welcome failure with that incident. It bonded us to fight any adversity head on.
Leaders who choose to befriend failure and transform it into a beautiful lesson and stepping stone can manage any crisis. Biggest life lessons come out of crisis – how we handle them and respect them.
All turnaround CEOs are not magicians. They are failure friendly and detached doers. They expect to fail, accept it and take actions objectively to turn it into a success. A detached leader would disrupt without getting emotional about the existing product or company.
I started my first venture SWASH as a unique learning ground for children and adolescents. I started it in 1997 when I was an MBA Student. Teenagers, students from engineering and medical colleges would come for month long courses and make relationships for life. By 2007, things started changing. I needed to scale it up but the way I used to invest myself in students; I didn’t find a way out.
I failed to create a team who could listen to youth, nurture them and guide them through their delicate and thorny adolescent years. My attachment to SWASH led to its failure. There is a great need for such institutions which can become anchors for talented youth and people in general but in a digital avatar perhaps.
Admitting failures as parents and leaders prepare us to fail better next time and create grander success.
Ask yourself – Do I respond well to failure? If you expect, accept and disrupt failure, you are gifting an amazing future to your children and your team.
Learn More – Follow Me (Dr. Swati Lodha)