Nalini Joseph: Take risks, recover from defeats for greatness
I was watching an interview with Vinodh Khosla, the Indian American venture capitalist who founded Sun Microsystems. He spoke in his interview about failure, and how important it is for top-notch companies to hire employees who have experienced and lived through multiple failures.
Khosla talked about failure as though it was a life event to be celebrated! He reminds us that those who have taken risks and continue to take risks regardless of the possibility of failure are those who will ultimately win. In fact, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. The greatest innovations are those which are not necessarily visible in mainstream but on the outskirts. Remember when people were asking who would buy a phone that did not have a keyboard on it? Steve Jobs took a risk, and going against mainstream advice, created the iPhone. Twenty years ago, I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Why would I need a traveling phone?”
I also spoke with a politician who ran four times for elected office before he finally won. If you know anything about running for an elected position, you know it can be a daunting and nerve-wracking process; it is a mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting journey. He has run many times since those losses and has won each time. This is what I call true perseverance and a true calling into public service.
Risks must be well thought out and calculated. Simply picking up the pieces from a failure and trying all over again does not mean guaranteed success. Failure has to be examined through a microscopic lens. Egos must be set aside. Accountability, self-criticism and criticism of those on your team — often those who are your most trusted allies — is necessary.
Your criticism may be harsh, and you may have to make tough decisions about who remains on your team as you formulate a plan for the next venture. It is, therefore, interesting to me that many parents, including myself, work hard to shelter our children from criticism. As good parents, we focus heavily on boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem. We are our kids’ No. 1 cheerleaders, knowing how difficult childhood and adolescence can be.
I often have to remind myself it is not necessarily a character defect when my son experiences failure. If it is indeed a character flaw, it does not have to be a permanent one. It is not a precursor to how the rest of his life is going to play out.
We simply have to examine the failed situation in its entirety. My job as a parent then becomes that of the coach whose team has just lost the game. If my child is going to win the next time around, he has to do some serious introspection and some very hard work. Think about how you as a parent can use your child’s next failure as an extended learning opportunity.
Together, analyze what went wrong. Talk about the environmental conditions, the human factor, the systems that should have been in place that were not, the planning or lack thereof and the execution of the plan that went awry. Discuss the next plan and tell your child to write it on the whiteboard or on a sheet of paper that goes up on the fridge. Talk about the risks, the possibility for another failure as well as the likelihood for success.
A friend who works in the mental health field once told me we, as Americans, have an exceptionally low tolerance for pain, be it physical, mental, or emotional pain. Our low threshold for pain has led us as a society toward escapist behaviors, which can then lead to addiction problems. However, if we plan for failure as a byproduct of the endeavor for ultimate success, our disappointments are only temporary.
Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year-old honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at email@example.com.
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