So I'm listening to 2 managers at work argue about their staff, the standards and what was pass or fail, I noticed the arguments quickly turned from work to philosophy and then began to deteriorate as neither manager was listening to the other. It was actually quite sad as they were both saying the exact same thing. They were in agreement that failure was a lack of attaining the minimum standards set both in your personal and professional lives. I had a bunch of input that I wanted to add into this discussion, but listening to them argue with each other when they were essentially saying the same thing just left me a little drained. I’ll give you a brief tidbit of what I went through:
Manager A, “Failure is a lack of exceeding the standard set it doesn’t matter the reason.”
Manager B, “Well yeah that’s true but sometimes there is a reason, I mean it’s still a failure whether you have one or not, but I’d like to know there was a reason at least.”
Manager A, “Well what would that reason be, if you failed why should I care about the reason, I will not tolerate failure in my unit, you will either exceed the standards or be fired. I don’t care about the excuse or about you trying you’re hardest, trying your hardest and not meeting the standard is still failure.”
Manager B, “Well that’s kind of harsh, you make them feel better when you give them a chance to believe that they have an acceptable excuse. You have to make them feel good about themselves so that when you discipline they accept it easier.”
Manager A, “Who cares about how they accept it, if they wouldn’t have failed they wouldn’t be getting punished. That’s what’s wrong with people nowadays, they don’t realize that whether you believe you have a valid excuse or not, failure is failure, that’s all there is to it. No one cares about you doing your best, no one cares about you trying, life is pass fail that’s it and that’s all.”
Manager B, “So what happens when YOU fail, excuses may not mean much, but they make people feel better and it’s not our job to prepare them for their personal lives that should have already been done so that doesn’t even factor into this.”
From that point on it began to deteriorate further and further until the original conversation had been lost all together. Now we could pull all kinds of lesson about effective communications, empathetic listening, leadership and management, motivation, and life philosophies out of just this brief piece that I have listed here. But what really struck me was the lack of understanding or compassion for the staff, and the lack of understanding of what failure really is. If they were good managers they would have seen that staff not achieving the standard is more often than not a management issue not a staffing issue. The phrase you manage things and you lead people also comes to mind when I think about this.
Failure is a lack of maximum effort towards any goal, and it is most definitely quitting before the job is done. Thomas Edison supposedly failed over 10,000 times when inventing the light bulb. But now his single success is the only thing he is remembered for, do you think on his death bed he thought himself a failure for having not met his personal goal on the first try. He persisted and that is what made him a success. On the other side, I went to school with a kid with genius level IQ. But he graduated with a solid 2.0 GPA, straight C’s for 4 years. The same GPA of another kid I went to school with who had a below average IQ. He met the standard and he graduated, But he didn’t put forth maximum effort, what he got wasn’t the best he was capable of. In no way, Shape, Form Or fashion did he perform at his maximum potential. For that reason his performance in high school is considered to be a failure. Neither of these two quit, they both achieved their end goals, but one was a failure while the other was not. One met his potential, the other did not. If you quit however, you never even give yourself a chance to meet your potential or your goal, and not starting is the same as quitting, it just means that you quit on the idea as soon as you had it.
Retreating isn’t necessarily a bad thing as sometimes it’s best to throw your hand in and divert your attention to other more beneficial goals. In high school if you’re taking Algebra 2, but you never took Algebra 1, it might be a good idea to get your schedule changed. Do not mistake stupidity and lack of forethought for braveness and perseverance. You should have an attitude that tells you never to surrender and to live everyday like it’s your last. But you should also recognize when the battle is lost and save yourself so that you can win the war of life. Working above your capabilities is just as dangerous and useless as working below them. The difference between retreat and surrender is when you retreat your falling back to adjust your strategy and prepare for another fight. When you surrender you stop the entire war all together and accept another’s terms as part of your defeat. I touched on this a little bit in my previous book “Think Free Be Free,” you should continue to try until you reach your goal, finding a new route is not the same and stopping all together. Strategic planning often involves the elimination of current processes all together and the same rules apply in your personal life as in your work life and vice versa. There are only 2 instances in which you can be called a failure: you either gave up all together, or, you did not perform to your maximum potential.