great fire Thomas Edison experienced at his lab. Edison’s
manufacturing facilities were heavily damaged by fire one night in
December, 1914. Edison lost almost $1 million worth of equipment and
the record of much of his work. The next morning, walking about the
charred embers of his hopes and dreams, the 67-year old inventor said,
“There is value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Now we
can start anew.”
Edison’s attitude in the face of his disaster serves as a reminder and
as encouragement to those who have ever experienced a setback or
failure. As a leader the question is not whether you will have
failures, but when you do, how will you respond? As you grow as a
leader the types of failures and the way you fail will grow with you.
Are you getting better? Here’s how you can tell.
You fail better when you are not afraid to take risks
Taking risks is part of your growth as a leader. Without risks you are
in a rut and the view will never change. It’s as you dare to venture
out and try new things that you can maximize your potential and reach
new goals. Failures will come when you take risks but anything worth
having will require it.
You fail better when your dreams are big
This is where you put your risks into action. Failure in pursuit of a
big dream is much better feeling than the feeling of complacency where
you are. You have big dreams for a reason. And big dreams require
action. And along the way of fulfilling those dreams you will
experience setbacks. Failure is a part of your growth and through
every difficulty along the way you are one step closer to seeing your
You fail better when you do your very best
Big dreams and goals require more out of you than what you gave a year
ago or five years ago. It’s the payoff of your growth and the reward
of your hard work. A failure at this stage in your life is still many
steps ahead of where you were in the past. Each step, each setback,
and every failure is the result of putting your best foot forward even
if you stumble.
You fail better when you fail with others
Your path to success as a leader will be easier to navigate when you
have others to share it with. Smart leaders understand the power of
teamwork and the rewards of collaborative effort. You can enhance and
accelerate your work, dreams, goals and aspirations when others are
involved. Setbacks and failures hurt less when shared by others and
your recovery will be quicker. There’s nothing like sharing a few
failures with your team and there’s nothing like the celebration at
the end when together you achieve your goals.
You fail better when you don’t give up
Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the
courage to continue that counts.” When failures come your way don’t
give up. Failing successfully happens when you get up, dust yourself
off, reassess, and get moving. You wouldn’t be where you are today if
deep down you didn’t already know this. But perhaps you just need the
reminder so here it is; don’t give up!
You fail better when you show others how
There is no failure or setback that you go through that is in vain if
you react the right way, learn from it, and care enough to help
others. Your life lessons — all of the bumps and bruises along the way
can serve as invaluable teaching moments. The way you fail today is
not the way you failed five years ago and it will not be the way you
will fail five years from now.
The way you fail is important. As you come through your failures you
are learning, applying new lessons, being more creative, and making
wiser decisions. What you learn you should share. Show others that
failure is not fatal, that there is triumph in adversity, and most of
all it is worth it if you don’t give up.
What do you say?
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at