Sunday, April 09, 2006

Learn from success or failure?

I ran across this little quote in an article by Amy Stone at the other day:

"The problem with success stories is that there are too many of them, and they almost always seem to hinge on happenstance. Not that there isn't a positive message to be gleaned from a right-place-at-the-right-time story... But there's a big difference between gleaning and being able to follow a concise set of instructions designed to help you achieve a desired outcome. I've been the recipient of many a success story, and each has been as varied as the individual behind it. Stories of failure, on the other hand, are universal. They can also be replicated. Considering we learn more from our failures than our successes, I offer the following as advice..."

Later on she says:

"The question you should ask yourself is: Do I want to make my own mistakes, or learn from somebody else's?"

I hope she's kidding with the first part above. It's bugged me for a couple of days now, and I wasn't sure just why. Then it hit me. The author really needs to read Discover your strengths by Markus Buckingham.

One of the reasons we learn from our failures is because we usually spend a lot more time wondering how we could have been so stupid. We go through all the potential reasons we might have failed and think about how we might have done better. Sometimes it affects our mood for days. Sometimes it makes us cautious about moving forward on something new. It usually results in some 'cause' that we can point to, either a something or a someone.

On the other hand, we usually just bask in our successes. Sure they affect our mood for days, but we seldom spend time looking back over the process we used. We're ready to move on to the next success, sometimes oblivious to just what it was we did right.

Buckingham suggests that we focus on our strengths and build on them. As time goes on, any weaknesses will become less important in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps we need to treat success and failure in the same way. As we try to avoid the 'causes' of failure, perhaps we can adopt the 'causes' of success. Everything won't work for everyone, but we can use what works for us and grow.

Seems to me that gurus like Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, and others use this approach. They try to find the common features of successful people and offer those up as options for other to adopt.

I get so tired of today's focus on the negative. I'd much read stories about success and learn from them. Perhaps if success stories were more 'universal', the world would be a better place.

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