Success come from failing, well

The need to recognise our limitations, accept and face our inadequacy and vulnerability are sometimes the very things that create good leaders and long-term success. Although failure can lead to learning, it doesn’t automatically do so – we need to learn to fail, well. Check out this link for more:

Book launch speech, 29th June 2019: James Devine, Chief Executive, Medway NHS Foundation Trust

When asked to speak with a topic like failing intelligently, you are never quite sure whether Caris has formed a view that you are someone who has failed intelligently, or whether she is discreetly telling you that you have failed unintelligently but regardless I am genuinely pleased to be here tonight and share in this very special occasion.

Some failure in life is evitable.  It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default – <JK Rowling>

No more perhaps than in healthcare where if our nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons didn’t take calculated risks, we may still be living in a world where people die needlessly from disease and conditions that today we treat with relatively simple surgery or treatment.  

But as a chief executive and former HR Director, it perhaps will be no surprise that I believe it is how an organisation responds and supports its people to take those risks – to help them prepare to fail intelligently – we often refer to this as ‘culture’ and I’ll come back to that

But that is where the secret lies – but creating the right environment takes time and hard work.  In healthcare, we work with ambiguity, ego, competitiveness,– yet years on, that hasn’t materially changed.  Why? Well, I think that the book perhaps answers that question.  We have 2 fundamental needs – love and the need to achieve, everyone needs to feel important. Yet we live in a world where to succeed is seen to be more important than to love – but how connected are they or do they need to be, in order for you to fail intelligently and confidently?

When you don’t create the right culture, an organisation can become paralysed – no-one will make decisions or all decisions are made by the most senior person – and often because people don’t want to get blamed if it all goes wrong.  As I said, that’s the secret – people.  Whether we recognise love or achievement, we are all human.  All of us will fail, and for healthcare organisations, we must always recognise that it is the people that will generate the culture – and the culture that supports people to plan for failure.  It doesn’t have to immediately generate a negative thought or feeling.

The author Stephen King once said that we make up the horrors to help us cope with the real ones – and that’s often the case with failure – we fear it so much, because it becomes something so big and irrational in our minds, that we don’t take the risk.  That could be in your professional careers, or in your personal lives as we stand here tonight.  But often not taking the risk, means that only do you not fail and learn, but you may miss out on something or someone, and that something or someone may be the best thing that ever happened to you – if only we didn’t listen to that critical inner voice, or planned better for the inevitable failure.

Growing up, we are not taught to fail, our instinctive reactions to failure are therefore usually defensive – But as we all know, failure is inevitable.  It is how prepared we are for that failure that drives us forward, and allows us to learn. In the organisational context, some of you will know that the average tenure for a Chief Executive in the NHS is just 22 months – why, because often they fail in the eyes of regulators and Boards, that they move on, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not – is it because they do not bring perceived success quick enough or create the right culture. But how in that timeframe is one expected to fail intelligently, encourage others to do the same, be given the freedom to get things wrong and measure tangible success?  Our attitude toward failure is more important that our attitude toward success and that’s because one is seen to be negative and the other positive – I don’t think failure is always negative – how many of you tonight were in relationships with the wrong person, but you didn’t realise it until you found the right one – I hope that right one is the one you are here with tonight.  How many of you thought your career dreams were impossible at times, until you took the risk and got there.  How many of you thought you would ever have a book published unless you took the risk and prepared to fail? 

It doesn’t mean you hold back your fears of failure or rejection, but you accept that some failure is inevitable and plan for it – often the failure is far less that you ever imagined it to be to the point that you ask yourself what you were so scared of.

I mentioned earlier the 2 fundamental needs of love and the need to achieve.  Are they mutually exclusive?  Can you really achieve unless you love and are loved? On the need to achieve, we take calculated risks when we move from one employer to another, or take on that new project, or undertake surgery on a patient that your colleagues have declined. Is the need to achieve and love also to feel supported, appreciated and recognised in a personal or professional life? I think so.

On love specifically, to truly give your heart to something or someone fully and without question, is a risk – but like planning to fail intelligently, you don’t give these precious things to just anyone.  You give them to someone who you know will support you to achieve and love you back.  Professionally, or personally, when you get it right, all your past fears, failings or rejections, don’t mean anything anymore.

And despite fears of failure or rejection, like a phoenix that continues to rise from the flames, we know that success is not final, failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.

Thank you , I hope you have a wonderful evening.

Book launch speech, 29th June 2019: Tracy Maclean, Retired Police Officer

Let there be no doubt, Policing is failing on many levels.

Its failing the public it has sworn to protect and its failing the rank and file officers who are striving valiantly to prop up a system that is simply not working.

I spent 29 years as a Surrey officer the first 13 of which were on front line response. I then worked for several years within the intelligence world at both local and cross border levels and as a detective. I have seen humanity at its most inhumane, dealt time and again with those who want to hurt, and degrade and destroy and the victims of those oftentimes, heinous acts. After a while, you become inured to the things you see, you have to or you wouldnt survive for long in that environment. 

Police officers are expected to remain disconnected, unemotional and to deal with provocation, violence and the threat of violence, day in day out, without reacting. We are not trained to do this, none of us were born with a special ability to deal with these things. We feel the same way as anyone else would about what we see and experience and are subjected to. But you learn to ignore your emotional responses and get on with it. And that has a cost. 

Unprecedented numbers of police men and women are suffering stress, depression, PTSD and a host of other mental health issues. 

Survey after survey has shown that the rank and file do not feel they have been or will be, supported by senior officers if they admit to their struggles.. This is having devastating consequences. 

Between 2016 and 2017 whilst I was waiting for my pension to be ratified because my own mind had completely broken, 3 of my Surrey colleagues committed suicide. There have been at least two other suicides that I am aware of in Surrey since then. There have been more up and down the country. This is unacceptable. 

I was almost the third officer from Reigate in that 16 month period, to became a statistic and I received zero support from management. My brother had to threaten to take legal action against Surrey Police to get them move on my ill health pension application. 

That he had to do so, speaks volumes. But this story is not just mine, its one that more and more of my colleagues are telling and yet no one is listening.

It is becoming harder and harder to fulfil our obligations. In the last 10 years we have seen budget cuts of just under 1.8 billion and the loss of 20000 officers, which equates to more than 15 percent of the workforce.  

There is talk of another 22,000 officer posts being cut. 

These cuts could be weathered if the expectation of what the police have to deal with was reduced to take into account staffing and budget cuts. 

Sure, ministers and other talking heads will trot out the usual hackneyed response about how crime is falling and how the police need to learn to do more with less. However, cold hard reality is that the cuts to funding and staff has put incredible strain on those front line officers left to pick up the slack. 

The thin blue line has become a broken blue line. And that has left the service with no resilience. 

The only ones it has to call upon to do more with less are those who are already struggling to meet the relentless and short sighted expectations of government and senior managers. 

A  PEW demand and welfare survey showed a staggering 66 percent of officers taking part, reported they were subject to a violent attack last year  – of which 31 percent said they experienced attacks on a monthly basis. 76 percent of those surveyed, reported being always or mostly singled crewed. 

The only reason that officers are single crewed is to put more marked vehicles out on the street to lull the public into a false sense of security. Special constables have for a number of years, worn a uniform identical to those worn by the regulars for exactly the same reason. This smoke and mirrors approach by the policy makers is unacceptable on a number of fronts. 

That they are willing to put officers out on their own, in an increasingly hostile environment, to peddle this myth that we are coping needs to end. It serves no one, least of all the public. 

Things became, shall we say, interesting, in 2015, when Theresa May, in her then role as Home Secretary, attended the police federation conference and told its members to stop crying wolf and scaremongering about the impact of financial cuts and fewer officers. 

The police federation of England and Wales works tirelessly to assist its colleagues. But in a profession where its against the law to strike and where staff can only attend protests in their free time or by using their annual leave allocation, what leverage do they have to fight the changes that will cause policing to fail. None. The federation is rendered little more than a paper tiger.

 I think the unprecedented rise in knife crime and murder that is blighting our streets today like an unstoppable cancer, puts paid to Mrs Mays allegations of crying wolf. 

And yet, having made her stance on more with less abundantly clear,  there has been yet another swift volte face during her term as Prime minister as her cabinet seek to pour more money into policing to stop the very thing she was warned would happen 4 years ago.

Well Mrs May, That ship has sailed. 

Was there a need to put policing under a microscope? Undoubtedly. Certain attitudes and methodologies required scrutiny.  The need to hold policing accountable and for it to operate with complete transparency is necessary. 

But the various media sources who continue to label policing as institutionally racist and focus solely on mistakes and areas that need improvement are encouraging a continued erosion in public confidence. And without public confidence, policing will inevitably fail. 

Why? Because it takes so much more than just policing to keep the public safe. It takes communities and the police MUST be a part of those communities in order for law and order to prevail. 

One of the worse aspects of the austerity cuts was a loss of so many community support officers and specially trained police officers embedded within our communities. 20000 fewer officers impacts these incredibly important roles because those officers left are needed for the rapid response type of policing that has the highest demand on manpower. But our communities are where officers are needed most. 

It is there, among the people of our communitues that barriers are broken down and trust reestablished. The communities we police are a wealth of intelligence and information. This helps facilitate a targetted approach, essential to the fight against rising crime.  

Every day I hear that conducting more stop and search and increasing budgets to facilitate this, is being heralded as the solution for the problem of knife crime. Yet as home secretary and just a few short years ago, our prime minister implemented reforms to REDUCE the number of stop and searches carried out because researched showed time and again that it has little impact on reducing crime. But it has huge impact on feelings of exclusion, alienation and the disenfranchisement of minority groups and an increasing lack of trust in police officers. This is a recipe for disaster and for a continued rise in crime.  

Stop and search has its place but to promote it as the answer to combatting violence on our streets, especially when its been proven to have little impact is ludicrous. 

And this obvious knee jerk reaction hasnt lead to a decrease in knife crime. 

Policing is a tool. it is a consequence of what ails society. And its success or failure tends to run parallell to the sucess or failure of the societies it polices. 

We operate a system of law enforcement known as policing by consent. In this model of policing, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. 

“Policing by consent” indicates that the legitimacy of policing, in the eyes of the public, is based upon a general consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.

Policing has been guilty of a lack of transparency, integrity and accountability. And this has done little to help police and public relations. Under the Thatcher government of the late 80’s when I joined, the police had many powers it no longer has as a result of various reviews and reforms and pressure from certain public sectors. 

Some of the most significant lapses in judgement from those times are coming home to roost. As a result, the huge changes that have been made to make policing more accountable and transparent, are being lost. No matter how good we get, we will always be only as good as our last reported epic fail.

But if you continue to point the finger unequivocally at policing as the reason why society is failing, you abnegate the resonsibilities which are incumbent upon EVERY citizen to ensure community welfare.

And speaking of communities lets speak about the tough stuff. 

Policing in this time of increased ethnic and cultural diversity. 

Its not easy not least because of the ever changing political landscape. 

In 2000 Labour had overseen a deliberate open-door policy on immigration to boost multiculturalism for political ends and to “rub the torys noses in their outdated attitues.

In February 2011, the then Tory Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the “labours doctrine of state multiculturalism” had failed and will no longer be policy and yet official statistics showed that mass immigration increased during his leadership.These push me pull you political shennanigans are a minefield to navigate by a service required to police apolitically, which means that it serves without fear or favour and does not align itself with any political ideology. That tennet of policing becomes increasingly difficult when we are constantly used in one way or another within an everchanging political arena, to prop up or promote the short term objectives of those in power. The solutions to what ail our society lie in a long term consistent and multi pronged approach that is set to fail, in this current system of left-right political one upmanship. 

And Increased interference from Whitehall which is involving itself more and more in how policing is delivered at a local level is rendering an already difficult task just about impossible. 

Violent crime is on the increase, it always has been and to lay the blame for that firmly and only at the feet of the police service is a myopic. Its roots are much deeper and more far reaching than the failings of one public service. Policing has had to prop up cuts to ALL public services and then theres a judiciary weak on sentencing, the increasing socio economic divide that exists in the Uk and governments failure to deal with that and so much more.

Until policing is privatised and that is coming to one degree or another, it is still a public service and whilst the officers have no sway with government, the public do. 

You, we the people, put them there. Unless the public knows whats really going on, unless you aware that you are not as well protected as you think you are, nothing will change. 

The rank and file are trying desperately to do a dangerous job in increasingly untenable circumstances and in a world where policing has become a bureaucratic nightmare as it seeks to please everyone. They make a bad system work because they do not want to fail the people they are there to protect. 

But its not just reaching breaking point. Its already broken.

My own failure was pretty spectacular. Finding myself becoming less adept at coping, I used alcohol more and more on my days off as I sought oblivion from the fallout of 3 decades of policing.

I finally walked out in april of 2016. I had been completely honest about my issues with alcohol. I had stopped drinking 6 months previously. This had caused a tsunami of emotions to completely overwhelm me and it was very obvious that I was struggling to cope. I begged my managers to let me stay at reigate for at least 6 months so I could begin the process of healing. I had been forced back to work on threat of half pay and was desperate for support and stability from my bosses. A few weeks after literally begging for a period of continuity I was moved to a uniform role at Caterham. 

I walked out. 

During the following 8 months, I became so depressed that I started using sleeping pills to the point where I was taking them round the clock. 

Towards the end of 2016, I had written my letter of apology to my family. I had planned my exit from life. But some semblence of the old me remained and in a last ditch effort to sort myself out, I asked my family to help me pay for rehab. 

I spent 28 days in a facility and with their help, and my own determination, I began to rebuild my life. 2 weeks after I returned home, Surrey police saw fit to stop my pay completely notwithstanding a letter from my gp advising against this for obvious reasons. 

It has taken me two years to reach the point where I feel strong enough to speak about my my journey. But it is not just mine. 

If it isn’t already, it will become the journey of more and more police officers. 

This evening is the first time I have spoken publicly on these matters. But I dont intend for it to be my last because I still have a voice and I can no longer be held to ransome by those who dont want the bright light of scrutiny cast upon the realities of policing the front line in the 21st century.

Book launch speech, 29th June 2019: Hannah Valenzuela, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Derby

Monday the third of June was a busy day in my office at university. At nine, all the students’ results were released online. At three minutes past nine, our phones started ringing and inboxes starting pinging. There was anger and disappointment from some, along with tears and demands to know what they had paid nine thousand pounds for this year. What these students had in common was a failure to get the grades they had wanted. 

We teach our undergraduates about a two-stage response to their module grades. The first is the emotional response, which varies from person to person, as Caris talks about in her book, dependent on things like personality traits and previous experiences of failure. This can be a positive experience too, of course – the tills ringing in the student union bar testify to this joy. 

We encourage them to see this as the first part of the response, not the whole thing. The second part we call the academic response, the analytical response. Engage with the feedback on your assignments, we say. Ask questions of your work, figure out what to do next. As Caris says, don’t let your emotional response be the whole thing. 

Some students pay little attention to feedback. They seem to think that they did their best, and even if the result was disappointing, they could not have done any better. In order to respond analytically, we need to believe that improvement is possible. 

You might have heard of Growth Mindset. It’s a buzzword phrase in many schools these days, and based on a theory from a psychologist called Carole Dweck. It hasn’t had great results in schools for various reasons, but the theory itself is pretty sound. Dweck says that, in a nutshell, people tend either to have a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. With a fixed mindset, we think that we are born with a certain amount of intelligence, and that’s it. We can only do as well as we can do, and there’s not much point in trying any harder. Of course, genetics dictate our abilities and intelligence to some extent. However, a growth mindset understands the brain as a responsive organ, the mind as something which can be nurtured and improved, our abilities as something which can grow. 

I’ve seen quite a lot of fixed mindset: those students who don’t engage with feedback. Students in top sets at school who get very frustrated when they fail at something, because they think they should be able to do it straight away. Students in bottom sets – I’ve been told, “Miss, I can’t do this, I’m in set 7 and I’m stupid”. Setting students seems to contribute quite a lot to fixed mindsets, actually, with very little payoff in positive terms. But I digress. 

Growth mindset is popular in education, and it’s easy to see why. 

My children and I have been learning piano from a teacher, Jayne, who illustrates this better than anyone I’ve ever seen. As this is a talk about education, I’m going to go teachery on you for a minute. 

Hands up please, if you’ve ever learnt a musical instrument. Keep those hands up if you’ve ever made a mistake while playing your piano, or guitar, or panpipes, or whatever. Keep your hands up if you’ve experienced making the same mistake over and over. 

Frustrating, isn’t it? And we tend to go back, and practice, and practice, and practice. Or give up and have a glass of wine instead. 

Jayne says, Ah! A mistake! How interesting! Let’s investigate it! Ah! She welcomes mistakes, embraces them. She says, How do you feel? Notice your feelings. Then we investigate. Then we discuss strategies, such as changing the fingering, practising a stretch, calming the mind to improve concentration, singing the first line of music in your head before starting the piece. Then we try out the strategy, and see what happens. 

Jayne’s teaching embodies growth mindset. Many people think growth mindset is about working harder, and certainly there is an important role for meaningful practice in anything that we teach or learn. But learning from failure is also about identifying strategies, and learning from a more experienced peer or mentor, a teacher or friend. Reducing it to working harder is often a recipe for failing again.

So, failing intelligently, failing with a growth mindset, can help children and adults to learn. But what about the bigger picture? 

Across the country, Roma, traveller, and Black Caribbean children are far more likely to be excluded from school than white children. Boys more likely than girls. Children with special educational needs than those without. 

This week, a report came out from the Social Mobility Commission which examined the pathways into the powerful jobs in this country: senior judges, senior politicians, newspaper columnists, diplomats. The report says that although only 7% of our children attend private school and 1% attend Oxford or Cambridge, 39% of the elite group had been privately educated, and 24% had attended Oxbridge. 

These two examples suggest that there are failures at organisation, at system level in education. When children who belong to certain social groups can do better or worse in education simply by belonging to those social groups, and have better or worse life chances because of it, something isn’t right. Individual growth mindset, intelligent failure, hard work, strategies, analysis will only get individuals so far. We have a system and organisations which are driven by targets, results, and where failure to meet those is punished quickly, by dismissal of leaders at all levels. The analysis, the Ah, let’s investigate! approach is often missing. 

I’m working with a twelve-year-old boy in my research at the moment. He is in a group which is less likely to do well in GCSEs compared to the average, and my job is to investigate why this might be happening. On paper, I’m responding intelligently to failure in our education system. But here’s the thing. When I asked this boy if he’d like to be part of my research, I explained that it’s important to hear the voices of children in research, to understand why things are happening the way they do from his point of view. He readily agreed to take part, but on one condition: that I sit next to him in science lessons and help him to learn. He identified his failure in science, found a strategy (my help), and implemented it. He can’t wait around for reflection, analysis, and big-picture change: the failure that affects him and other children like him has an impact on his life chances, and that, for him, is urgent. 

For me, that means that it’s hard to lead this sort of analysis, to use these systemic failures as a springboard for growth, but that does not mean it should not or cannot be done. Let’s use failure in education, whether it’s a misplaced musical note, a mediocre essay grade, or a larger and more intractable issue of inequality, to improve. 

Book launch speech, 29th June 2019: Sarah Grace, Sarah Grace Publishing

I have to say that usually the topic of the book when it first lands into my inbox is a key point of decision for me. 

To be honest I was nervous and yet intrigued with the topic of failure due to my due role as a psychotherapist with in the publishing field.

My colleague Malcolm was happy to say “Here is one for you!”.

I like to meet and talk with the author to get a sense of them. This will give me an idea of how we will work together. Quite often the pathology of the book will come out somewhere so you can see why I was a little nervous. Would this book come about or will it failure to make it though the many hurdles in the publishing process.

As the pathology of the topic can play out in the relationship, really how was this going to go, would it fail and would it be intelligently or would we just not get it to market. Even to the last moment, Friday afternoon I was waiting for the delivery to be successful otherwise I held the one and only copy available to us, would we have to auction it off?! Would my fear of failing Caris take over, I had to mindful of this. Fear of Failure can be worse than a failure its self, it can be paralysing and stop us acting at all. Thankfully Caris has, with her faith, conquered this too.

Sarah Grace books are ‘dyslexia friendly’ because I am dyslexic so Caris’s book is fitting as failure is a daily battle for me and others with dyslexia. Often it feels like we can be tripped up at any hurdle. May be able to tackle a task one day yet the next day it is difficult. However knowing it is there and working with the effects, by being honest with ourselves and others of how it may play out and affect them helps everyone manage better. Not an excuse but an informed understanding of our limitations and strengths, owning and recognising these helps.

So having received Caris’s book, my first part is read the manuscript and then meet the author. So I met Caris and what a delight! I have found every step of the way, as has my colleague Malcolm, to be the most relaxed, uplifting and enjoyable that I can say has not always been the case.

I have learnt from Caris, as I do with every author, yet she has enlightened me and encouraged me probably without even knowing it. I feel this book will do the same for many many people. A book to pick up time and time again in times of struggles and just to refresh us.  

I would reiterate – one of the endorsements quoted in the book says: 

“a kind, gentle and refreshingly honestwalk through every aspect of failure that left me feeling relieved and encouraged”.

Thank you Caris for taking the plunge, for embracing the journey of failing, learning from it and rising above it. The opposite is less appealing – it’s not so pretty, not so refreshing, it’s self destructive and we get stuck. Caris shows us the way of seeing it differently by making yourself vulnerable and embarking on a long hard journey of writing a book on failure from many angles. 

Each author I am in awe of no matter what the topic is to take on one that is hard to write, market, hard to package up easily I feel privileged to be on the journey with Caris. I am thankful for that task you gave me but actually I am thrilled with the cover. I am also  totally thrilled that you have a great team around you to help market it. I would say you have embraced failing beyond measure, embodied it and abounding beyond its heights. 

I applaud you for all your hard work and perseverance: In life through the tough times also as a mother, the hardest yet most fulfilling job of all. Having a career as surgeon – how scary is that 

and now an international author making yourself vulnerable and available to others, exposing self in a book for anyone to pick up 

(I hope you had thought of that before now!) 

This book you have made easy to digest a difficult topic. Small enough to handle yet big enough content to make a difference in peoples lives, mine has been enhanced already.

The ripple affect out from failure is easy to see and difficult to make sense of. Yet one positive move of owning our part in failing and by forgiving we can change many lives too. Lets start to look at our own – let the ripple be positive and flowing in the right direction.

Please can you participate in this next part – Caris has made herself vulnerable by even going there to write a book, one tough topic as we know. 

Now is your turn – who here has failed at something, show of hands….so you all will relate to this book and want to get a copy. Those who didn’t put your hand up REALLY need this book because I believe you have a blindspot and need to read this then take my business card as I am a psychotherapist willing to help you out! So everyone here needs a copy and so do your friends so please do support Caris is this way tonight and as she travels on with her journey with this book.

You definitely have modelled to me that you can handle failure however I don’t think that will be on your radar for tonight. Enjoy the celebration of your book and as it grows legs I hope you hear how many lives you have touched.

Thank you.

Book launch speech, 29th June 2019: Caris Grimes, Consultant Surgeon and Author

Nobody in their right mind wakes up one morning and decides that they want to write a book on failure.  Now, some of you may doubt whether I have ever been in my right mind, but lets put that aside for now! 

The context in which I did so is this: 

In 2011, my marriage came to an end after 14 years which left me with a sense of failure. 

I then went through 5 years of being both single mum and fulltime surgical trainee and feeling that I was doing neither well.  I was not at home enough to be what I thought a good mum should be and I wasn’t at work enough to fulfil my own expectations of what a good surgical trainee is. 

I then became a consultant and had to start taking responsibility for my own complications and the impact of my decision-making.  

Then as special punishment for the new consultant, my department asked me to take on the role of Patient Safety Lead and Mortality Lead in General Surgery – which has ultimately led me to investigating Serious Incidents – such as potentially avoidable death. 

Then, if that wasn’t enough, I decided to set up a Bereavement Service, to allow bereaved families to come back and ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have. 

I therefore found that I was dealing with some aspect of failure fairly frequently, and did not feel that I really understood failure enough to do it well.

As a Christian, I also felt that God was calling me to write  a book on failure and I didn’t want to do it.  Every time I felt a little nagging – “write the book, write the book” I would say No.  I explained to God that there are many things that I would like to be known for and to be good at, but failure has never been on the agenda. 

It came to a head one evening when I was praying and I felt the nagging again – “write the book, write the book”.  In exasperation I said to God “OK! I will write this blinking book but on one condition. I want you to give me one example, from the Bible, of someone who did everything well and still failed catastrophically. Because if I’m going to write a book, I don’t want to just write in on error, I want to write it on that sense of failure you can have even when you are doing everything to your best ability.” 

I shut my eyes and had a sudden, immediate and clear picture of the cross of Jesus. I was gobsmacked. 

“Ok.., God…” I said, “Can I just clarify? Are we now calling Jesus a failure?  And if we are, are you asking me to write a book for which my non-Christian friends, family and colleagues are going to think that I am a lunatic, and my Christian friends, family and colleagues are going to think I am a heretic??” 

Ladies and Gentleman, friends, family and colleagues, I have been reassured that for those of you who know me that none of you can possibly think of me as any more of a lunatic or a heretic than you already do by me writing a book. … Which I guess is reassurance of sorts ! 

Finally, there are four take home messages for tonight on failure: 

1. Failure is everywhere. There is no part of our lives, no organisation and no industry that failure, feelings of failure or fear of failure does not effect from time to time.  And yet our bookshops are littered with books on success. 

2. Failure can be extremely painful. It can be associated with very strong negative emotions of shame, guilt and fear.  We need to support friends, family and colleagues who are experiencing these. 

From a healthcare point of view, no healthcare professional goes into work with the intention of causing harm.  And therefore, when a healthcare professional or professionals are involved in anyway in a failure, then there is no-one who can blame and condemn them for their role in that they themselves. Therefore, a culture of blame in our relationships or in our organisations is not just counter-productive, it stops individuals and the organisations learning. 

3. Failing Intelligently is hard. Failing well involves not being defined by your failure, but seeing it as separate from you and a tool to help you learn. It also involves taking responsibility for your part in failure, apologising and learning from it.  But this is difficult. It is difficult at work and it is even more difficult at home. I am sure that if you twisted my husbands arm hard enough he may just admit that, although I have written the book, that when we argue, I am not the best at failing well. 

4. Failure is important.  Research from organisations, education and individuals show a similar theme. That those that only ever succeed, ultimately fail.  But those that learn to fail well, ultimately succeed because failing well leads to adaptability, versatility and resilience. 

Please do buy the book. I have tried to keep it short and sweet.  My stubbornness and belligerence meant that I was not prepared to write a book more than five chapters long. I would love to receive positive feedback on the book. But I also need to receive the negative feedback too, because without this I cannot fail intelligently. 

Thank you.