Return On Failure

“Traditional parting words is wishing a shipmate ‘Fair winds and following seas,’ but I want to wish you the opposite, ‘Howling winds and stormy seas,’ because those are the conditions that will make you a better sailor and officer.”
-General James Mattis
Commencement Address to Naval Academy Prep School Class of 2006

It’s Army/Navy week, so before game day, I thought I would give a shout-out to all of our Naval Academy friends with a quote from General Mattis that I heard him say at the Naval Academy Prep School many moons ago. 

I sat in on a leadership conference this week, and John Maxwell was the keynote speaker. As usual, he was full of knowledge with an entertaining delivery. The topic that hit me most was “Return on Failure.”

In this email blast, we have talked about Return on Investment, Infrastructure, Time and Attention. This was the first time I’ve heard the phrase “return on failure.” The concept is straightforward – what has your return on failure been? How have you gotten better from your failures?  

We all strive to win and not have projects go off track. We think there is some magic smooth road to success in life, but no one has ever grown from an easy path. You have to take the losses, the punches in the face or the gut, the “oh $hit!” and “gosh darn it’s” to grow. In short, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing.  

December is a month of reflection. How did your year go? What is your return on failure this year? What did you set out to accomplish? How did you do?  Are you saying the same thing to yourself as last year? Then you may not be getting any return on your failure.  

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.  

What can you change? What lessons did you learn? Did you take too many risks? Did you over-commit? Or did you not challenge yourself enough?  

Either way, I am cheering for you to step up in 2022. Challenge yourself to take on a little more than you think you can…stretch and fail! But fail fast, so you can learn and increase your ROF. It’s the fastest way to grow!

Go Army!! Beat Navy!! 

BJ Kraemer, President