Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Failure – Post #1

Steve Jobs
Even legends fail (most times, it’s a right of passage)

The sad passage of Apple CEO Steve Jobs has gotten me thinking about failure. Sure, Jobs was a widely successful entrepreneur and technology visionary, but he also was let go from the top spot at Apple when he was 30. Jobs credited that event (in retrospect) with transforming him into the leader of Apple that he ultimately became. In the years between getting fired and returning to the helm of Apple, Jobs developed his vision and his passion for technical and design excellence at a little known company called Pixar. (Pixar was no longer obscure, of course, after Jobs’ tenure and the debut of the delightful movie “Toy Story.”)

What is it about failure that helps propel some people forward and leaves others behind in a bitter heap? Steve Jobs had every right to be bitter after getting bounced from Apple, a company that he co-founded at the tender age of 20. Instead, though, he picked himself and his bruised ego up and moved forward. He realized that he still loved technology and finding ways to make it matter to people. He took on a new challenge and helped pioneer pixel animation technology, creating an entirely new industry in the process.

I think the key can be found in how Jobs decided to accept the blame for what happened. While it certainly must have stung, he obviously didn’t get stuck in blaming others or himself. He accepted the situation, assessed his options and moved on!

That’s resilience and it appears to be a key attribute of most successful people. Harvard Business Review dedicated its entire April issue to the “f” word. I’m going to take a figurative page from HBR and devote my next several posts to failure and what it means in a business context (and even in the U.S. Army). And I’ll share a few of my own less-than-stellar moments and what I’ve learned in the process.