Leadership Lessons From Failure: Avoid the Seeds of Defeat

This is the Final post in our blog series about lessons learned from failures.  This post is from SOS co-founder & CEO, Bill Moyer.

This is the time of the year when I reflect on the current year and plan for the next year. I call this: Looking back and looking forward. I do this same exercise with all of my clients and have for 30 years. It is an opportunity to count my blessings and learn from my failures. What I have learned from my own life experiences and from the many incredible leaders that I have had the privilege to coach is that most of our failures are the unintended consequences of some of our greatest successes. As we look forward to this next year, these are my words of wisdom from the many hard lessons that I have learned in my life:

Be careful that your victories (or successes) do not bring with them the seeds of future defeat (or failure)

A quick history lesson… When any of the conquering heroes of the Roman army rode their chariots in the parade celebrating a great military victory, there was always a designated person riding in the chariot directly behind the hero whispering, “Accolades and celebration are fading glory.” The purpose of this custom is obvious; the Romans wanted to make sure their military leaders never brought the seeds of future defeat back with them.

How many celebrities can you think of whom, after rising to the top, literally self-destructed? Seeds of future defeat? How many of you have experienced a major life crisis like marital or family problems right after achieving a significant career success? The emphasis and focus on one area of your life leads to success, but can also be the cause of lack of focus on other areas. The old “lie” we have been taught is that you can have anything in your life if you are just willing to “pay the price.” That is true, but the price you pay is often a major failure in some other area of your life.

Think of a person who, in your opinion, is truly successful. Now think of one word that describes that person. I have used this exercise before, and the word most often thought of is humility. One would think that word would be drive, ambition, or hard work, but that is not so, for it seems obvious that humility and long-term success go hand in hand. Notice that I said “long-term” success. Accolades and material possessions are fading glory. What all of us need is lasting success – significance.

When asked to think of specific seeds of defeat, one usually thinks of pride, self-destructive behavior, arrogance, and so on – all the normal self-defeating behaviors of worldly success. However, one of the most common self-destructive seeds of defeat is complexity. Life seems to happen at an ever increasing pace today. With material and performance-related success come complexities, such as legal issues, tax liabilities, financial planning, and all the ego-enhanced temptations. These things create heavy, life-draining complexity.

How can you simplify the complexity in your life? That is a “seed of success”

Was this year your best year ever? If not, do something about it. Here are the Seeds of Success that we teach in our book: Seeds of Success: A Journey from Success to Significance:

  1. Follow Your Dreams
  2. Becoming Requires Overcoming
  3. Don’t Be Afraid of Change
  4. Forgiveness Will Change Your Life and the Lives of Others
  5. Show Gratitude
  6. Plant Seeds of Success in Others

For a free copy of a journal exercise based on these Seeds of Success email info@SOSLeadership.com.

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