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Great Leaders Are Comfortable With Failure

Early in Denzel Washington career, he auditioned for a part in a Broadway musical; a perfect role for him, he thought, except for the fact that Denzel didn’t get the job. But here’s the thing about the story. He didn’t quit; he didn’t fall back. Denzel Washington walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next audition. He prayed and prayed, but continued to fail, and fail, and fail, but it didn’t matter because you know what? There’s an old saying according to Denzel Washington “if you hang around a barbershop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut. You will catch a break.”

 In 2010 Denzel Washington starred in a play called Fences on Broadway, and he won a Tony Award for his outstanding performance; but here’s the kicker, it was at that Court Theater, the same theater where Denzel Washington failed in his very first audition.  

So this begs the question

 Do you have guts to fail? Or are you living your life so cautiously that you are not even trying anything new and if that’s the case you have already failed by default according to JK Rowling. 

You Will Fail At Some Point

To achieve the highest success, you have to embrace the prospect of failure. Whether you are a renowned business owner, executive, politician, father, mother, writer, priest or pastor, I assure you no one is without mistakes, and I am 100% sure they have failed countless times before. Like you, they are human; failure is part of the journey,’ no matter how much you try to avoid it, you cannot. Instead, you must learn how to handle it, embrace the lessons, get comfortable with it, and move on.

Don’t Fear Failure 

When James Quincey became the CEO of Coca-Cola, he called upon the rank-and-file managers to get beyond the fear of failure that had dogged the company since the “New Coke” fiasco of so many years ago. Quincey said, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.” According to Pauline Estrem, when we take a closer look at the great thinkers throughout history, a willingness to take on failure isn’t a new or extraordinary thought at all. From the likes of Augustine, Darwin, and Freud to the business mavericks and sports legends of today, failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success. 

Failure Is Life Biggest Teacher

“Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there,” says Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big.

“Instead, they choose to play it safe, to fly under the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they never attempt anything great at which they could fail (or succeed).” 

 Some people get paralyzed by failure, and they believe if they fail at something that’s it, my life is over. The sweetest victory is the most difficult one. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, to fight with everything you’ve got, to be willing to leave everything out there on the battlefield,—without knowing, until that do-or-die moment; burning all your boats with no safety net of retreat.

To achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity while complaining and blaming everyone and everything for the stagnation in our lives. 

If you want to be great and experience the heights of success like the greats in leadership, you must get comfortable with failure, and you must explore life outside your comfort zone.


About Gifford Thomas

I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 230,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.

You can pick up your copy of my book The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible by clicking the link below

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