business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Winning really isn’t everything. In many ways, losing is much more important if you can lessons from the loss.

I really have no idea how many total speeches and columns I’ll deliver on various topics in 2008. But this much I know for sure: the one speech I’d really love to give is the one I won’t get to make.

This Sunday, my son, Corey, will graduate from high school. As a proud parent, I’ll be delighted to watch him walk across the stage with his 500 classmates. And as a typical commencement attendee, I’ll be hoping the speeches are mercifully brief and give the students some kind of wonderful message.

Barring some incredible event, that message won’t come from me. So I’ll deliver it here instead…after which you may feel free to throw the nearest hat into the air. My message would be this:

Don’t fear failure.

Too often, we try to do just the opposite. In fact, as your parents I know we’ve always tried to shield you. We’ve given you trophies for finishing in last place and we’ve railed against any teacher or coach who dared not love you. We were wrong.

You see people who never fail are either superhuman or never take chances. The odds are you aren’t in the first group and you most certainly want to avoid the second. Failure is a strange thing. It sounds so awful after all, but it isn’t if we fail for the right reasons. And if we learn from whatever happens.

Sometimes we fail because we didn’t work hard enough. We didn’t plan enough, study enough, train enough or do whatever it took to get ready. That’s never a good outcome unless at the end of the day we honestly assess our failure and promise to learn from it. The great baseball pitcher Christy Mathewson said, “You can learn little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat.”

Sometimes we fail because we made the wrong choices. Sadly, life isn’t lived in hindsight, so we can’t know how to make the right choices in advance. Hard work can always help. And never fear asking questions and don’t dismiss the answers you don’t like.

Sometimes the right choice is clear and we don’t make it. Again, learn from that. Doing the right thing may not always be the easiest or most popular choice. But it’s the only choice you won’t regret later and in the end, nothing will matter more.

And understand that sometimes we fail because we simply fail. We make the right choices, we give the good effort and we do all we can. Yet we still fail. It happens.

Failure stings and none of us like it. Don’t ever get uncomfortable with failure any more than you should get uncomfortable with success. Life isn’t meant to be lived half asleep. Seek out new challenges and try again.

Stretch…again and again. Remember that your reach needs to exceed your grasp. When you do that, yes, you can fail. And yes, you can stretch. Sometimes you’ll actually get the unreachable and the world can change.

Sure there are lots of things you should remember to do as you move on through life. Always nurture your sense of curiosity or your desire to learn. Court opinions opposite yours and try to understand why they are different. Remember the world is bigger than you and walk with humility. Treat people the way you wish to be treated. And donate blood because it’s mostly painless and it saves lives.

But most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. Because winning really isn’t everything or the only thing. Trying is.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
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