In my past life as a life coach, I wrote extensively on the importance of failure. It's my opinion that you if you aren't failing now and again, you aren't moving forward. It's not possible to succeed at every single project you undertake unless of course, you are Oprah Winfrey or someone equally mythical. The most critical steps to take after failing are to analyze the lessons learned, get back up on your feet and try again. But, I also find that so often a person might view something as a failure that wasn't a failure, that person just hadn't defined their own personal definition of success for that particular project. I say personal definition because so many people just automatically take on the most generally agreed, socially acceptable definition of success as their own. If you do that, you'll believe that you've failed many times more than you have.
Here's an example. I had a conversation the other day about the business that I sold in 2015. The new owner is very proud of the fact that he has doubled the revenue, and so he should be, but it seems that somehow I'm expected to believe that that fact makes him more successful than I was at running that business. Well, that belief depends entirely on MY definition of success. When I started that business ten years ago, my definition of success was to create a company that I could run from anywhere, that would make enough revenue to pay myself and my staff very generously, and would never be required to take on debt. The fact that the revenue was growing exponentially (his definition of success), meant we needed more inventory, which meant taking on debt. This growth was the sole reason that I decided to sell the company. It had been successful under my definition of success for eight years, but to keep the business running smoothly, I would have to break my own rules and go into debt to finance growth. This was something I wasn't willing to do. Yes, I could have grown the revenue much faster much sooner, yes, I could have paid my employees less, yes, I could have financed product development by taking on debt - but that wasn't my definition of a successful company.
If you neglect to define your definition of success or assume another's measures of success as your own, you run the risk of making yourself miserable. The current owner of that business is very successful under his definition but had I assumed his definition of success when I started that business I would now be the owner of a huge company, deeply in debt and tied to a specific location. I would be miserable.
You don't have to be a business owner to heed this advice. This lesson is important for all areas of regular, everyday life, not just something like starting a business. Are you going back to school? What's your definition of success? Do you require straight A's or does your family take precedence to the point where you would consider just passing a success? Are you working and raising a family? Do you need that promotion or is just that fact that you bring home a salary a success? Are you homeschooling? Do you want your kid to end up in an Ivy League school, or is just providing your child with options more important to you?
The most challenging part about keeping to your definition of success is that often others don't understand it. What do you mean you didn't want to grow revenue? What do you mean you're happy with a C? What do you mean you don't want the promotion? It's true that other people judging your results by their definitions may view you as a failure. So what? You know what's true. Stick to your guns. Your life, your rules.