Success is better, actually

August 17, 2011

We’ve opined on the nature of success  and the role failure oftentimes plays along the way:  failure is a part of business, a great teacher, it’s important to fail the right way… (see here, here, herehere, here, and here)

Well, OK.  But on the other hand… via Feld Thoughts, an excerpt from a graduation speech delivered at the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing:

What you learn from failure is limited at best – you learn what didn’t work. It tells nothing of what will. In contrast, what you learn from success is how to succeed. This is infinitely more valuable

In fact, you now know one thing for certain. You know that with talent and determination and hard work, you can accomplish what few others can. You succeeded. In the future, taking on truly hard things – things that seem impossible – you will not be in uncharted waters. On the contrary, you will build more success.

That’s key. Success breeds success. It is not a question of whether you will achieve more success. The question is what it will look like.

Hard to argue with the notion that winning beats losing, but undefeated seasons are rare, undefeated careers (or lives) rarer still; so it’s good to know how to roll with the punches and come back stronger.   While we’re on the topic, here are two recent items, each distilling the subject down to just three words:

Philips Electronics CEO Greg Sebasky offers an excellent summary of what he sees as three keys to success:  Courage, Rigor, and Humility

The Harvard Business Review draws from the sports world to choose three different keys to predicting future success:  Commitment, Ability, and Resilience.   From Looking Past Performance in Your Star Talent:

Professional sports require dedication and performance under pressure. In this environment, personal traits and preferences that manifest themselves as strengths can become counter-productive. Self-belief can become unhelpful ego, which impacts the ability to learn from setbacks. A win-at-all-costs mentality can turn into a desire to bend the rules a little too far…

Business, like sports, is a rollercoaster. Success is high profile, failure higher still. Given this, any outlook which fails to recognize the potential threat of derailment and to prize the resilience necessary for coping with setbacks is an incomplete picture. We characterize future potential in terms of three dimensions — commitment, ability, and resilience. Those individuals in sport or business with the highest potential are replete in all three…

Just like Pacific University: Remember current performance is often a misleading barometer of future potential.

Just like Manchester United and Arsenal Soccer Clubs: Insist on understanding the people behind the data.

Just like the New York Giants: Encourage your talent to understand and actively manage their own personal sources of potential derailment.

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