Never Failed? Hardly Lived!

medium_1698172760There are many times that I have grumbled about how tough an upbringing I had. There were periods when I would consume copious amounts of air-burgers at school. The most trying moments were not the hunger pangs, but watching some of my classmates dig into their samosas and other Indian delights. As the delicious smells wafted over and were entrapped in my nostrils, I vowed that one day I would gift my taste buds with similar delights.

Around the same time, I vividly remember one English writing assignment when I was 11 years old. Coincidentally, the assignment came in after I had read an adventure novel. Boy didn’t I enjoy that assignment. I created my own world of make-belief and turned in a masterpiece. When my English teacher handed my assignment back to me, it had a big zero in crimson red. I was shocked! His verdict was that I must have copied my work from some existing text. I was broken.

What prompted my recollection of this event? It was a comment that Jeffrey Heinichen left on Initium Novum (A New Beginning): “Not only are you Authentic, you are an incredibly good writer and I have much to learn from you,” he wrote. How I would love to trace my former English teacher now. Not only can I write, but now I am an author and run a blog to boot!

Lucille Ball was one of the most influential and successful actresses of her time. Yet she had been previously dismissed from New York City’s John Murray Anderson-Robert Milton Dramatic School apparently for lack of talent. She did not give up and tried modeling when she was hired as a showroom model. It was during this time that she was discovered for adverts and film.

In 1961, Decca Studios turned down the Beatles as guitar music was thought to be on the way out. This is after they had churned out fifteen tracks in a few hours on the eve of ’61! The Beatles went on to become one of the most arguably successful artists of all time.

Who was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination and had no original ideas? The legendary Walt Disney was involved in a number of start-ups and jobs before a borrowed camera helped him launch his real passion, animation. Walt Disney now has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, not to mention a global empire under his name.

What can leaders learn from these events?

Fail forwards: Do not allow failure to stunt your growth [TweetMe]. Embrace that failure and allow it to become your treasure-trove of lessons. Your growth plan must incorporate time to reflect and learn from the past.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got up again.” ~Nelson Mandela.

Overcome fear: Get others involved in your growth [TweetMe]. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to greatness, are candid enough to let you know when you are on the wrong path (with love), and give back to community. I wouldn’t have added quality to my book if I had not reached out, became vulnerable to others who in turn hold me accountable. People appreciate you when you involve them.

“We must have courage to bet on our ideas, to take the calculated risk, and to act.” ~M. Maltz

Be accountable: Deliver what you said you would do [TweetMe]. Another way of being accountable with your followers is to mentor them in their own growth. Todd Nielsen’s Three Ways to Polish a Diamond Employee In The Rough is a godd place to start being accountable to those that follow you.

“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.” ~Steve Maraboli

Do you have any fears that limit your ability to lead? I would love to hear from you.

photo credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin via photopin cc


Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Wonderful post, Kimunya. Your point about Fail Forward resonates with me. I’ve always learned more from my failures, than from my successes.

    • Thanks Dan, indeed failing forward propels me to do good. And to grow too…

  • Great post, Kimunya! I think fail forward is a key, as is feeling the fear and taking the risk anyway ~ one of my own personal favourites. You’d never catch me bungee-jumping or parachuting, although I have fallen of cliff faces more times than I can remember. I also remember the first time I spoke to an audience of 300; it was intimidating and liberating at one and the same time!

    I also feel that accountability is crucial and often overlooked. We are responsible for the decisions we take and the actions that happen as a consequence! We need to own those and seek to take actions that help us to learn and grow. As a leader, learning is part of the critical pathway ~ if you’re not learning, you’re not leading!

    • “If you are not learning, you are not leading!” I love that John! Last year was an awesome learning experience for me. I feel like I fell off many cliffs. In the process, I got to figure our what I need to focus on.