You may have heard the phrase, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
It creates this image of a lumbering, towering figure toppling over, falling to the ground in slow-motion, its great weight crashing down and causing the very earth to shake underneath it…
And it is often used to make success seem like a burden – like a bar hard won to pass but if fallen short of, will leave us absolutely devastated. It turns the joy of success into intimidation and makes the temporary phase of failure seem like a death blow.
And here’s the thing – this phrase works like a charm.
These days, we are living in a fast-paced corporate world. Constant pivots. Tight turnarounds. The internet has made the world smaller than ever, which means more competition – higher expectations – and more than anything, more pressure to perform and produce. As leaders in this environment, even our day-to-day tasks can feel high-stakes. It can feel like even a minute is the difference between life and death.
But if I had to guess, I would bet you probably have not had more on the line in the span of one minute than Elon Musk.
It only took 26 seconds for the first launch of his Falcon 1 rocket to go belly-up. It went careening headfirst into the Pacific Ocean – and along with it, $7 million of private funding, a United States Air Force satellite, and the hopes of many of Musk’s already few supporters.
In spite of this, Musk forged on. He later experienced not one, but two later launch failures – one of which destroyed a NASA satellite. Understandably, these failures nearly wiped Musk’s organization SpaceX off the face of the earth.
(I don’t know about you, but I’m already starting to feel a little less stressed about my shortcomings…)
However, the fourth launch was different. It experienced a rocky development, but at 7:26 PM ET on September 28, 2008, Falcon I became the first privately developed liquid-propelled rocket to orbit the earth – and SpaceX was saved.
Why? Because Musk and SpaceX were committed to one thing: resilience.
All along the way, Musk and his team paid close attention to what caused the launch to fail and made meticulous adjustments. Each failure led him and his team to closer scrutiny of their product – their process – their parts – and yielded insight into improvement.
And because of Falcon 1’s eventual success, Musk and his team secured SpaceX a $1.6 billion NASA contract and paved the way for future pioneering achievements, like the Dragon spacecraft docking at the International Space Station.
In a corporate environment involving humans (and therefore, human error), failure is inevitable – but it does not have to be fatal. If the success of SpaceX holds a valuable lesson for leaders, it is that resilience turns failure into success.
So, if you are feeling the pressure and looking for tips to help your team work with challenges like failure, consider these three techniques:
- Have a “post-mortem” analysis for both successes and failures. John Maxwell says, “Experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is.” Reviewing an outcome and the actions that led up to it is the one of the most effective ways to identify patterns, solve problems, and plan for better effectiveness in the future.
- Develop a resilience training program. Not only does training practically equip team members with the resources they need to exercise resilience, but it also demonstrates to team members what the organization values – encouraging them to further develop their skills in those critical areas.
- Encourage open dialogue about mental well-being. Without our people, we don’t have teams, and without teams, we don’t have organizations. Without our people, we are not leaders, and we do nothing. So if we are asking our organizations to be resilient, we must ensure our people are, as well. That means prioritizing their mental and emotional health. Give your team members channels where they feel comfortable discussing stressors or seeking mental health help.
Winston Churchill once said,
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
And in Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone echoed this sentiment:
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward.”
As you go through your week, set aside some time to evaluate your experience and identity a few areas where resilience can best help you and your team – it could be the difference-maker for your organization.
That’s all for now! 😉
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