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Don’t let your failure hold you down

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A story was told of a man who was passing some elephants, when he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that the huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds, but for some reason, they did not.

He asked a trainer nearby why the animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said, “when they were very young and much smaller, we used the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it was enough to hold them. As they grew, they were conditioned to believe that they could not break away. They believe the rope could still hold them, so they never tried to break free.”

The man was amazed. The animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
Like the elephants, many people are of the belief that they cannot do something, simply because they failed at it once before. However, when failure is understood as a normal process of growing and developing, it can become something that is welcomed.

Peter Bregman, author, management consultant, speaker and thought leader in the areas of leadership development, organizational change, productivity and emotional courage, had this to say: “Every time I ask a room of executives to list the top five moments their career took a leap forward — not just a step, but a leap — failure is always on the list. For some it was the loss of a job. For others it was a project gone bad. And for others still, it was the failure of a larger system, like an economic downturn, that required them to step up.”

As this year winds down, you may be faced with the reality that a particular business venture is failing or that an investment has not generated the returns you had hoped. These are opportunities to find new and unexpected paths and escape your self-imposed limitations.

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