Lessons from Michael Ignatieff's failures – What we call can learn…

The votes have been cast, the people have spoken and the results are in. Congratulations to the 308 new members of Parliament!

There were winners… I was happy to see Elizabeth May finally win a seat, and it is interesting that there are now nine university students representing Quebec for the NDP (including some that didn’t actually campaign!).  Stephen gets to renew his mortgage for four more years.  Jack and Olivia get to move to a new house with their own personal chef and driver. Life is good.


And there were losers… Some very qualified big names lost their seats, notably Michael Ignatieff, Gilles Duceppe, Ken Dryden and Conservative cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon.  Michael Ignatieff said it best “nobody likes a loser and we especially we don’t like poor losers”.  There were 2700 candidates who didn’t get the outcome they were hoping for…we call that Failure.


Ah, yes the emotionally-charged “F” word!  Maybe it is a layoff, a job you didn’t get, a promotion that went to someone else or a project that went south. We’ve all been there.


What is failure? How does a professional recover from a setback? I have wrestled with this issue both in my own career and in helping our clients to have a healthy relationship with failure. Your ability to understand and deal with things that don’t go the way you expect is one of the most important professional skills to learn.


This week’s podcast is with Scott Sandage, the author of Born Losers – A History of Failure in America. Scott is a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University.

The lessons we learn from failure will define us probably more substantively than our wins. These are some of the lessons I have learned from failure… 


1. It always feels very personal – but usually it’s not as personal as it seems.

2. Take some time to grieve and then move forward as soon as possible.

3. Let failure refine you, not define you.

4. Figure out what you really want to do next and tell everyone you know what that is.

5. Be thankful – in due time good things will come from it. 


I was also struck by Michael Ignatieff’s response when he was asked what will happen next, “I will teach young Canadians. I don’t have any offers but I am open to ideas.” I admire that about him, the morning after his biggest professional failure, he knows what he wants and he is telling all of Canada. His next job search campaign started right after his resignation.


Failure’s sting was short with Dr. Ignatieff.  He landed a new job two days later with the University of Toronto. That is a lesson we can all learn from.


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Learning from failure, along the road with you!


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