Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Understanding Failure to Achieve Success

It is always tough to accept failure and think of it as a learning opportunity or a sign of how we could handle different situations.

I was in the Catskill Mountains of New York this past weekend. We attended another family wedding. It was set for the outdoors and would not stop raining.

Before the wedding started, there were cloudy skies, mud was all over the field where the wedding was going to take place, the dance floor was already wet and had no chance of getting dry and the bride's dress was partly covered in mud. Back to the wedding in a moment...

While in New York, the buzz of Derek Jeter breaking the Yankees' all-time hitting record, held by Lou Gehrig, had quickly gone through the state and was the talk of the town. It was fun feeling a part of history, especially hearing the positives while remembering the horror of 9/11 just eight years back. Reading about the record in the newspaper, I was pleasantly surprised to see a quote from Dick Groch who recruited Jeter in 1992, "When you look at a player, you know he can play, you know he's got talent, but it takes an individual who is able to handle failure and that's why after I identified the tools - I know a player can play - I go out and I want to see him fail. I want to see how he adjusts to failure." The article goes on to indicate that is a sign of success and leadership.

Several months back, a neurosurgeon at St. Joseph Medical Center had a similar viewpoint, sharing that "you can't judge yourself by your successes without judging yourself by your failures."

We continuously need to look at our outcomes and the systems that support these outcomes. With so many priorities and limited resources, our organizations need the continued discipline to look at what we do well, what we could do better and possibly what we should not do. I am always impressed, as well, to see how people and organizations handle failure or tough times. In a comment from Rick R. in my "Training for Life" blog entry September 9th, he indicates the importance of "improving our discipline of gathering and reporting quality data" in a timely manner. Perhaps this is just one more way that we will continue to progress, and deal with success and take on "failure" with the right information at the right time.

Back to the wedding...it was a blast...I even was given the parking attendant role, along with Barry F., a long-time CEO from another health system and family friend and mentor. As for the weather and dealing with "failure:" the Bride and Groom could not have looked happier. Once everyone saw their attitude, the umbrellas went up, everyone was smiling, people danced in a group to avoid falling and kept the evening more festive. The Bride even smiled and enjoyed her 'two tone' wedding dress.

Seeing how we approach "failure" certainly is an indicator of our potential success.

I look forward to hearing from you and understanding how you have learned and prospered from your own personal and professional "failures."

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