Updated: Jul 27
Most of the people that read this newsletter every week are CEOs, executives, and other leaders that are running some of the most amazing organizations in the country. We are all high achievers, driven by success.
In 12 years of school plus 4 years of college, I only got one B (Handwriting in 2nd grade – yes, that was a real subject back then). My middle school basketball team only lost 1 game in 2 seasons. In high school, I was a nationally ranked debater. And in college, I was the valedictorian of my business school.
This all sounds amazing, right? Many of you can relate – you have achieved phenomenal success. But there was one huge downside: I never learned to fail.
As Adam Grant writes in Originals, “Child prodigies are hindered by achievement motivation. When achievement motivation goes sky-high…The more you value achievement, the more you come to dread failure. Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.”
I went through many years where I was afraid to do anything where I might fail. And research shows that this comes down to a fundamental mistaken belief. When we succeed repeatedly at a young age, and are awarded by the system for this success, then we come to believe that success makes us “good”. Therefore, failure makes us “bad”.
But this belief is stifling. It inhibits creativity, keeping us from thinking big and acting boldly. It is the opposite of a growth mindset. In a healthy growth mindset, we see failure as just an instance in time. It doesn’t make me “bad”, but rather means I have something to learn at that moment. Once I learn and practice, I will naturally get better. With this mindset, we are much more likely to be open to taking risks.
This reflection has freed me of a huge burden I used to carry, the burden of perfection. If this applies to you as well, just take a moment to remind yourself that your success or failure at an endeavor means nothing about your value. Failure simply lets you know that you may need a new idea, or a different angle, or you may just need to learn more through experience. In any case, it is part of the natural journey of anyone who does something great in the world.
As Adam Grant concludes, the people that we revere for their original and bold ideas "feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyways. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try."
If you can relate, leave me a note in the comments! And this week, remember to think big, be creative, and not take success and failure to be permanent. I salute the amazing things each of you are doing and look forward to seeing what is yet to come.
If you are considering recruiting a leadership position for your organization, please reach out to me at NShah@ManevaGroup.com. We will schedule a no-cost, no obligation 15-minute consultation to discuss how to find and hire top 1% talent.
Maneva Group is a woman and minority owned national Executive Search firm focusing on the social sector with expertise in completely managing the recruiting process, curating diverse and exceptionally qualified candidate pools, and advising C-suite executives and board members through crucial hiring decisions.