Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 79, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I used to work at a John Deere dealership, many years ago. I worked my way up from assistant bookkeeper to general manager, so I think I did alright. I was proud of what I accomplished there. We reduced expenses and increased sales every year I was there. I’d like to think I had something to do with the owner’s success. And I was justly compensated for the work I did. Overall, I look back on those years as a success. I know what you are thinking, “But what about failure? Isn’t that what this chapter is about?”
I am glad you asked. Yes, you are correct. And the reason I am recounting my years at that dealership is because of one of the lessons I learned while I was there. Being the general manager, the owner, trusted me to run the place; but, he also made regular trips in to see how things were going. We would have regular meetings of the minds. Or so I called them. I would tell him what was going on and he would tell me what he wanted going on.
He wanted to impart his vision for the company, I was the one who had the obligation to make that vision a realtiy. At one of our meetings, I brought to his attention something very, very bad that happened. It wasn’t like I was going to hide it from him. But I also knew that the failure was mine. I was the one who was responsible. I knew my head could be on the chopping block.
I sat down with him and began to tell him of my failure. Now, of course, I tried to present myself in as favorable light as I could under the circumstances; but I knew I was the one he had entrusted and I had ultimately failed. And that was exactly what I told him.
And this is what he told me: “It looks like we have an opportunity. Now, how are you going to fix things?
I discussed ideas that I had, he interjected a few of his own. We worked together as a team, but then he left it to me. I am just so glad that I didn’t go in trying to point the finger of blame at others. Could I have done that? Sure, I could have made other heads roll. But I never would have been able to live with myself, after that.
I had obligations to fulfill. And mistakes to correct. And nobody but I, was responsible to get the things done. My failure was indeed an opportunity. It was an opportunity to finish the job I set out to do.