In today’s world the pills we take are usually coated, or flavored so we rarely know how bitter they are. We get the benefit of the pill without the bitterness. But some pills cannot be coated, and failure is one of those bitter pills that you often have to take without candy coating. When I make a mistake at work, there is no choice but to swallow that pill and get the benefit from recognizing the failure, analyzing the root causes, and making the changes necessary to turn the pill into a cure. In my personal life I have been slower to swallow those little bitter pills. Emotions can cloud the root causes, but more importantly they can make the pill so bitter that the cure can quite often seem much worse than the disease.
I hate personal failure, it is a bitter pill of such bad taste, that I often avoid it by trying to only bet on sure things. I’m very risk averse, but this can lead to a different type of failure. The kind of failure you don’t recognize for years, or decades, or a lifetime! Once this kind of failure is realized the pill is no less bitter and it can be so large that it is impossible to swallow. It may also be way too late for the cure even if you decide to try to swallow that now extremely bitter, “horse-sized” pill.
Another common mistake is to assume that the cure for failure it to stop trying, to walk away, or to at least end the current effort. Some failures are so systemic, that this is the correct choice. If the chance of success is one in a million, I’m not saying to face that and say, “So, you’re telling me there is a chance…”! But when you walk away, understand that you are giving up any chance for success. If it is a failure between family or friends, you give up the opportunity to have a more successful relationship if you just leave. Although some times ending an effort might be the best option, more often the failure is an opportunity to have success as long as you are willing to take the time to understand everything about the failure. This can seem like letting a particularly bitter pill dissolve in your mouth. It is easier to just toss the pill to the back of your throat, take a big gulp of water, and get it over with, but for failure, this is quite often not the best way to “take the pill”.
For personal failure, people often want to mix the bitter pill with something more pleasant, to improve the taste. Get your heart broken, can I please have some ice cream with that? Lose your job, how about a new big screen TV? Bad grade on a test, let’s party! Gain 10 pounds while on a fitness kick, how about a movie! Not only is the failure easier to swallow… the chance of turning your failure into success becomes much less likely. It is hard not to want to mute the taste of failure, it is a very, very bitter pill, but if you can take it straight you will have a much greater chance for future success. Failures, if you let them will eventually lead to success. When you look back on the bitter pill of failure at that point the only thing you will taste is the sweet ambrosia of success!