The Key to Success: Minimizing the Probability of Failure

superhero-kid"Recently, I and a very bright, very intelligent friend of mine mused over lunch as to what the key to success really entailed.  We spoke of tactics, strategies, birthrights and education.  He’s a Harvard grad, Wharton MBA and President of one of the most successful Hispanic ad agencies you could hire, I’m a college drop-out, former Presidential Appointee and CEO of one of the strongest business groups in the country. We have both, in our own way, succeeded well beyond most in our age groups, our industries and our communities.  Over steak frites and chicken and waffles, we hit a hilt and agreed, “The key to success is minimizing the probability of failure.”

The beauty of that phrase is in the fact that it’s a real statement.  It’s not designed to probe our inner sunshine or scare us out of darkness.  It is a real assessment as to what we need to do as individuals (and individuals as part of a team) to ensure the probability of success is the greatest it can be based on our contribution.  It also implies that success is a right to anyone who is willing to do the work and earn success.  It says, without artifice, that we all have the option to succeed, none of us are doomed or predestined to be failures.

There’s a distinct difference between being “someone who fails” and being a “failure”.  The former is descriptive of a moment or an event and therefore not subject to destination.  The latter is a state of mind, self-imposed, I might add, that portends to define a person and therefore their destiny.  The magnificent thing is – the “failure” can become “someone who fails”…and tries again -as many times as it takes – to become a success. (and vice versa)

I pity those who don’t know the pain of failure. The only way to know your greatest potential is to experience your failing point and make it your launching pad.  If you never try to walk, you’ll never fall.  But if you never try to walk, you’ll never run.  If you never run, you’ll never get very far and if you don’t go anywhere, the only thing you’ll see move is the world – right past you.  Those who are afraid to fail, are afraid to push the boundaries and go out on a limb, but the greatest view isn’t from the safety of the ground.

The most magnificent successes in the world: Edison and his light bulb, the Wright Brothers and their airplane, Hubert Booth and his vacuum cleaner, James Dyson and his better vacuum cleaner and of course, Al Gore and his internet; all had failed spectacularly before they succeeding historically.   If they defined themselves during their failing moments as “failures” rather than redefine those failing moments until they became successes, we’d live in a dark, untraveled, dirty, dirtier and disconnected world.  It is our responsibility, as citizens of a world, members of a community and definers of our own destiny to always try one more time than we fail – we will always continue to succeed.

That being said, the key to success is about minimizing the probability of failure, but how do you minimize the probability of failure? You research, you test, you collaborate, you do your homework and your due diligence, but most importantly, you ACT because if you don’t act, you haven’t tried and every time you don’t try, you don’t succeed and therefore, failure is not only probable – it is certain.

Article by Jane Pak, CEO of NAWBO-LA (National Association of Women Business Owners). Follow her on Twitter – @nawbola!