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Friday Reflections: How to accept failure

Every Friday, our people have the opportunity to share their thoughts on success and failure in both a personal and professional capacity with their Capco colleagues. We believe there is a valuable lesson for everyone in Jibran Ahmed's latest entry...  

I had an accident on a motorbike last week and, despite my injuries, I’m glad it happened, as my failure has highlighted how much I’ve progressed and grown over the years. I handled the situation much better than I would have a few years ago, and that’s largely down to things I’ve learnt and practised at Capco. So, rather than reflecting on success today, I’m going to reflect on failure. 
 
Two friends and I were motorbiking through the beautiful, mountainous landscapes of northern Thailand on what has now become an annual trip to focus on reflection and self-discovery. As we passed mile after mile of scenic roads winding their way through the mountains, my confidence grew with each bend and I pushed myself further and further - picking up speed, braking later, leaning further into each bend. I was relaxed, I was focused, and I was having the time of my life. 
 
Then it happened. Out of the blue, the grip disappeared from beneath me and I was flung off the bike on to the open road. Thankfully, I wasn’t travelling at speed so the physical damage to myself is limited to cuts, bruises, and burns on my legs and elbows.
 
Once we had got Mushy (the bike) out of the ditch, we patched up my wounds, had some amazing food, and got Mushy running again before continuing on our journey. Whilst driving through some sweeping downhill roads, I reflected on what caused the incident and how I deal with failure. Here are my key thoughts:
 
1. Failure happens; embrace it. It’s how we learn. I’m at the beginning of my journey of mastering the motorbike and I will have many failures along the way - I’m ok with that. Failure is absolutely fine as long as you learn from it and don’t repeat the same mistakes. 

2. Don’t play the blame game. In the immediate aftermath of the fall, I started doing what I used to do many years ago - finding something else to blame. The throttle sticks, the brakes aren’t good enough, etc. I spotted myself doing that within 20 seconds and stopped; took three deep, purposeful breaths to ground myself and then focused on resolving the immediate problem calmly. I accepted that I had made a mistake and had some lessons to learn. After failure, start by analysing what you could have done differently before assessing what others did, or didn’t do.

3. Don’t lose confidence. I got back on the bike as soon as I could and enjoyed the rest of the ride. Don’t let your failures knock your confidence - get back on the horse, you will do better next time.

4. Fail together, recover together. My friends didn’t see this as my failure that was only my responsibility to resolve. They pitched in and helped me get back on the road without being excessively fussy over me. As a team, you can achieve amazing results, so stick together through the bad times and the good.

5. Be grateful. I’m incredibly appreciative of my friends, the random man on the side of the road who helped pull Mushy out of the ditch, and the waitress at the restaurant who patched up my wounds. Without them, the recovery would have been longer, harder - and lonely. Gratitude goes a long way in the workplace and our personal lives, don’t be afraid to show it. 

6. Remember the positives. It’s easy to let failure tarnish your entire endeavour, but remember that there were some positive experiences and some valuable lessons that have made you a better, stronger person. I’ve walked away from this failure with scars that may last a lifetime. I’ll look at them and fondly remember an amazing adventure that I had been on. They will serve as a reminder of the lessons that I should never forget.
 
Failure is a crucial part of our development. Learning to accept it and turn it into a positive is an incredibly valuable skill. I am by no means perfect at it, but as I progress through my various journeys in life and continue to fail along the way, I endeavour to deal with each failure more effectively than the last. 
 
For those who want to learn a little more about progress and failure, I highly recommend the book “Mastery” by George Leonard. It’s a very quick read that has changed the way I think about my development in and outside of work. It’s around a tenner on Amazon and you can read it in a day. Give it a go and let me know what you think.