As we get closer and closer to the FIFA Women’s World Cup (which begins Friday, June 7!), I can’t stop reading stories about the US Women’s Soccer Team. Most recently a story caught my eye that connects with many of my thoughts lately. In the US Women’s locker room, there is a 5×7 picture of the Norwegian team celebrating their victory over the USA in the 1995 World Cup. It is the last thing the women see as they leave the locker room. How could their rival team’s victory be inspirational? When asked why, they responded by stating the first order of business is to win. But when failure does come, the team isn’t afraid of it, they are fueled by it. They don’t deny it, or reject it or blame others, they insist on remembering. To become champions on and off the field, they work to transform failures into fuel. The year after putting that picture up on the wall the US Women brought home their first Olympic Gold medal.
Recently I heard the story of Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani© yogurt. He discovered a condemned, run-down yogurt factory in upstate New York and turned it into one of America’s favorite Greek yogurt. Though his lawyer counseled against buying the plant, Hamdi had a feeling it would be something special. He brought together former employees who previously worked in the plant and the first thing he did was buy white paint to paint the outer walls. The small group of workers painted those walls and got to know each other and believe in each other and together figured out how to turn a plant that had been given up on into something 100 times better. They did it through dignity of work, strength of character and the human spirit. They turned a failed plant into a hugely successful company.
When we live afraid to fail we don’t take risks and we fail before we even begin. I remember not too far back in my career where a failure could’ve destroyed me. Instead, I used relationships I’d built and a network of professionals I trusted to turn it into fuel to move forward. If I hadn’t failed, I might’ve been stuck in something that hindered me from reaching my full potential. Have you failed at something? Did you let it define you or use it as fuel to take on the next challenge and success?