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Strata Performance Solutions

Helping companies find their Full Potential.

May 20th, 2014 by Robert Ringstrom

The biggest tragedies can reveal the best in us.  Failure can be scary.  Financial mistakes always generate a pit in the stomach.  Emotional letdowns can be severely depressing.   Missing a personal goal that was once passionately pursued can become a crushing defeat.  And the bigger the hit whether it’s lost cash, love or glory; the greater the pain.  But that’s where we historically also see diverging epitaphs.

There’s nothing stronger than failure.  When it speaks to the human spirit, it can force a commitment of two kinds.  It can bend a strong personality to a resignation of continuing despair and pessimism.  Or it can inspire a reassertion of bigger and better; and oftentimes smarter pursuits.

The Kmart Corporation, founded in 1899 was the ‘big box’ of success for the better part of a hundred years.  After the company began to stumble in the late 1990’s; superstar CEO Chuck Conway was brought in to save Kmart.  Conway was later charged with fraud and misappropriation of funds.  Newly appointed CEO of Apple John Scully, lured away from his job as boss of Pepsico; fired Steve Jobs because of his ‘inexperience at management’.  Both Conway and Scully disappeared into obscurity leaving their ill-gotten companies to their respective struggles.  Hitler-failureAdolph Hitler had the world on the run after capturing Europe in a matter of months.  Almost on impulse, he decided to invade Russia.  He failed to give serious thought as to how his rapidly charging army could “run” over 600 miles without resupply of food, ammunition and fuel to run the tanks.  Then he put a bullet in his own head.

Traf-O-Data was a way to “computerize” traffic counts when cars drove over the black hoses on the road.  It was a complete marketing and investment failure for Bill Gates.  But his intense interest in the opportunities presented by computers led to the creation of  Microsoft.  trafHenry Ford founded and lost two different car companies, leaving him nearly penniless.  But his concept of assembly lines for cars became Ford Motor Company; making him a legend and one of the wealthiest men in the world.  West Point graduate Ulysses S. Grant became a hard-drinking, disenchanted Army officer suffering from depression.  He quit the Army then quickly failed in his own business venture.  Recruited back into the Army during the Civil War, he quickly rose to the rank of General of the Union Army.  After leading them to victory, he was elected as President of the United States and served two terms.

Aristotle and Freud both emphasized the psychological significance of people naturally seeking pleasure, while avoiding pain.  A leader could be headed for disaster when they experience one successful venture after another without their metal being tempered by failure.  With a lifestyle of success becoming “routine”; they could be devastated when a major setback finally brings them to their knees.  They may live fearfully avoiding another painful failure and sink to unimaginable depths of depression.  But for those leaders who choose to capitalize on lessons-learned while chasing their dreams, there are no limits.

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“When it speaks to the human spirit, it can force a commitment of two kinds.”