Before I start, let me just say one thing:
I’m sitting here and as I write this, I’m trying to put together the reasons why this hurts so much, and it’s hard to find an answer. The only real explanation I have is obviously, one that comes from a film reference. Obviously. This one’s from “The Devil’s Advocate”, a trashy but undeniably enjoyable yarn from Joel Schumacher with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Reeves plays a hotshot lawyer who has won every case he’s ever contested; Pacino plays his mysterious, new boss. As Reeves works on a case, his wife played by Charlize Thereon, starts to have hallucinations and, as a result, his attention is torn.
“Maybe,” Pacino says to him at a pivotal point of the film, “it’s your time to lose.”
However, Reeves is adamant that losing is not an option, even when he’s presented with clear evidence that proves his client is lying about a murder; rather than tell the truth, incriminate his own client and walk away, he persists and maintains his 100% record, whilst essentially breaking the law, such is his unwillingness to fail. EVER.
“Maybe, it’s your time to lose.”
These six words have been plaguing my head as I lick my metaphorical wounds, trying to nurse my bruised ego. The more I think about these words, the more it makes sense. Who wins all the time? Even Michael Jordan, who never lost a NBA Finals series, missed almost 30 game winning shots. Arsenal, who made Premier League history by going unbeaten for an entire season in 2004, have never replicated their success since- while they’ve won trophies in between, they’ve never managed to get back to the promised land of winning the league title.
So, it seems that failure is quite the bedfellow to success. Sometimes, the smallest margins mean the difference between winning and losing. On the other hand, it’s a huge chasm between euphoria and despair.
One can’t exist without the other, and in fact there might be something in that you might appreciate success more if you’ve fallen on your arse more than once.
Is success helpful?
In all honesty, as a business, we’ve had a lot of successes over the last few years, a lot of the things I’m very proud of. I guess when you’re on that winning wave, it becomes harder to see how you learn to get better, because you’re already doing it well, and people are responding in the way you want them to. So, what happens? You stop learning. No matter how much you try to stop complacency setting in, it’s ultimately a losing battle. Perhaps you don’t do as much in terms of finding new audiences, reaching out to new partners. Perhaps you over exert yourself, thinking about ambitious plans, without focusing on the basics first. Perhaps you start to forget to ask yourself the questions that you always do, because you 100% know the answers, or at least think you do.
Is success that helpful? I’d argue it’s not. I mean, it’s a great feeling when things have gone as good (or even better) than expected, but what are you ever going to take from it in the long run? Yes, you can keep doing what you’ve done, but the question is, do you become tethered to those approaches, so much so that when they stop being effective, you’re really not sure on how to turn the ship around and do something completely different?
Me, myself and my ego
Instead, failure gives you an opportunity to ask yourself some really uncomfortable questions- did I really do that as well as I could? Did I cut corners? Why did I push ahead when everyone told me it was a bad idea? I feel that your ability to truthfully answer these and other questions comes down to how much you’re willing to learn and turn this current failure today into tomorrow’s success.
Success leaves you with a massive ego. It’s true. I don’t care how many “prayer hand emojis” you want to type. It just does. As much as I’d like to pretend I’m humble, when we do great work, I feel like I’m ten feet tall.
While success makes you feel great, failure, on the other hand, challenges you and forces you to look at your ego as potentially being the cause of why things haven’t worked out. It’s a hard thing to do, to admit that the fuck up is actually your fuck up.
And then. Once you’ve done that, it’s all about sifting through the collateral damage of said ego, painstakingly stiching it all together again, and using what you’ve learnt to the next project. Because, if there’s one key takeaway, failure will never make us stop. Or better still, failure never makes us quit. Taking that time out for, and being honest with yourself are two of the best gifts failure can offer you.
Maybe, it’s your time to lose.
As I finish writing this, I’ve had a night’s sleep to think about what these six words mean to me. Something just tells me that, yes, perhaps it was just our time to lose this one. That, when you’re striving for greatness, sometimes you are going to fall short. As I approach another day of creating a legacy for our children, I realise that failure has provided me with the gift of self reflection, allowing me to see where I went wrong and showing me a path to be the possible version of me and our business. Maybe it was our time to lose, because our mission is even greater than we ever imagined, and if we’re ever going to get there, we’re going to have to withstand a few failures on the way. It’s just our time right now.