Wednesday, July 19, 2006

There Must Be The Possibility of Failure

I'm taking one course every year to improve myself. Last year, I took a Diploma in Enterprise Development, basically an entreprenuership training course.

This year, I'm taking the Project Management Professional as well as salsa lessons.

I'm contemplating taking a course in Literature as well and taking an exam on it to motivate myself. This is to improve my story-telling skills and depth of acting ability.

Having an exam really motivates you.

In fact, there must be the real possibility of failure.

I've taken "sure-pass" courses before. And there just isn't the motivation in it to spur you on to pass and excel. One, because it doesn't make the course or exam serious enough. Secondly, an exam gives you a measure of how well you have done in your understanding and depth of knowledge.

True, an exam isn't perfect. Exams are actually very imperfect measures of knowledge. Warren Buffett for example, when he was temporary CEO of Salomon Brothers dreaded taking a compulsory exam for head of brokerage/financial firms. He kept putting it off until he could step-down. An exam could never do justice to measure the financial genius of the world's greatest investor.

There could never be an exam to measure entrepeneurial genius like Bill Gates or story-telling talent like Steven Spielberg. Their exams are the world stage, and the examiners are the public. And they too fail; Spielberg with Amistad, Empire of the Sun; Gates with Traf-O-Data and Windows 1.0.

What I'm trying to put across is that failure is actually something to be embraced, it is a good thing, it validates and gives value to our achievements, it spurs us on and provides feedback on where we have gone wrong.

Failure is just a stepping stone, it is just an event and likewise, so is success. Success too is for a moment. As Rudyard Kipling said, to paraphrase: Failure is an imposter, and so is success. It is the struggle and the development of ourselves that is far more important, though I must stress that if we are not achieving success, then something is wrong, perhaps our methods or our processes or focus or strategy. (Of course, you must then ask "What is success?" which is also a grand philosophical question.)

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