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By Michael Aun


I am the world’s leading expert on failing… you know, on screwing things up. And because of that, I feel I am uniquely qualified to tell others about the best ways to fail… since I have tried them all.

The first rule is to stop trying. If you do not try, you cannot fail. It is simple math.  Michael Jordan was once quoted “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying.”

In 2010, my late friend Zig Ziglar, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® and I received the Legends of the Speaking Profession® honor from the Veteran Speakers Retreat. Zig used to say, “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost. Anyway, yesterday ended last night.” I agree.

If nothing else, failure offers many rewarding dividends. First, you have found at least one new way something does not work. Second, you get a fresh start. Only now you are a little bit smarter.

The next rule on failing goes back to the theory of quitting. Quitting is like getting a flat tire on your car and you decide to slash the other three. Makes no sense. Why quit?

Thomas Edison cleverly summed it up “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that do not work.” Edison, like so many inventors, used failure as a learning experience. That is why so many inventors have a plethora of patents to their credit. They found something new… while trying to solve something old. They just would not quit.

Over the years, I shared the lectern with Tom Peters, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®. His theory was simple… “If it is understood that failure is the process by which we succeed… would it not therefor follow that in to have more success, we need more failure? We need to teach people to fail faster!” That is a pretty good rule.

Probably the key to this whole success/failure thing is to not let success get into your head or failure get into your heart. There is no room for either in your life. Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.

I love what Bill Gates had to say about it. “I failed my exam in some subjects, but my friend passed. Now he’s an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner.”

My grandfather Elias S. Mack, Sr. use to say to me: “If your goals don’t scare you, they are not big enough. Afterall, if you aim too low and succeed, have you really succeeded?”

Abdul Kalam observed “If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means First Attempt ILearning. End is not the end; in fact, E.N.D. means Effort Never Dies. If you get no for an answer, remember that N.O. means “Next Opportunity.”

Always remember the one who fails and stands up is stronger than the one who never fell… or tried. Failure is not defeat. It is not a detour. It is not a dead-end street. It is just a temporary delay. The most important key to dealing with failure is a short memory.

This column would not be long enough to chronicle my many screwups. Afterall, when you old as I am you are bound to have your share of bumps in the road. That does not make them pleasant or tolerable.

Two come to mind.  I once ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives and was beaten like a drum. What did I learn? It is cheaper to buy a politician than it is to be one.

The other happened in 1977 when I competed for the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was disqualified for going eight seconds over my allotted time.

A year later, I competed again- this time in Toronto, Ontario… and I won. My message to my audiences today… one must go through Toronto to get to Vancouver.

Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is the author of “Winning the Time Wars- How to Build a 26-hour Day”