Should you study success or failure?

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Published on May 22, 2009 with No Comments

In the season of graduation, someone contemplating commencement speakers thought the formula could be wrong. Seekers of speakers go for the most successful people they can find. From the President of the country to corporate executives and celebrities – the high achievers get the opportunity to inspire the up and comers. But what if everyone agreed that there isn’t any great predictor of success and instead focused on the study of failure. Is there more to be learned from those who have failed or from those who have succeeded?

As the argument goes, no one is certain about the formula for success. Ask a successful person and they may mention any number of things including passion, perseverance and vision, but ultimately they can’t truly pinpoint it. Does Warren Buffet truly know why he succeeded? Can he put it in a formula that can be duplicated in a scientific manner? Is success a science?

Based on the numerous memoirs detailing the wrong path chosen at their lives’ crossroads, it would seem that failure is the true teacher. Or at the very least, a formula for a book deal. William Saroyan once said, “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.”

By this reasoning, instead of studying Apple we should study Circuit City and where they went wrong. Instead of looking at IKEA we should look at the numerous home accessories stores that went out of business and learn from their mistakes. Why did Lehman Brothers fail? Why did the popular restaurant go under? Actually, restaurants go under all the time.

Can we really learn from them? Or is success and failure just a … dice game? Ultimately, it’s worth considering that failure is more easily duplicated than success. So in the end we may not be able to pinpoint the exact steps of success but we can easily put ourselves on a path to failure. In fact, you don’t have to do anything to fail – right? And who in their right minds want to do that?

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