Using the F.A.I.L. Model to Leverage Success

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By Kim Sawyer

Failure is a fact of life.  People fail all the time.  In fact, in order to succeed, you have to fail.  There is little incentive to move to the next level when you’re succeeding where you are, right?  You’re about to learn how one executive used a powerful technique we call the F.A.I.L. Model to leverage a period of failure in his career to wind up at a point of phenomenal success.

The F.A.I.L. Model is a valuable technique to very simply and practically turn failure into success, and it involves much more than just making lemonade when life gives you lemons.  It works like this:

  • Failure Something in your life has you up against your limitations and things begin to go wrong for no apparent reason.  Choice of response:  Blame it or own it.
  • Attention You recognize and take ownership for the difficulties and accept that the solutions are in you.  Choice of response:  Deny it or accept it.
  • Integration You learn and practice new ways to become competent.  Choice of response: Avoid it or practice it.
  • Launch Your competence at the new ways gels into mastery, and you begin to operate almost effortlessly.  Choice of response: Hang on to it or surrender it.

At each stage you will encounter a pivotal choice of response and choosing rightly is the price of admission to the next stage.  These steps take the specific qualities and components of any failure and leverage them to create a higher level of achievement and success than would be possible if the failure had never occurred.

See how it works in practice:

Lou was at the top of his game, or so it seemed.  He had been a Senior VP at one of the country’s top airlines for many years, was earning big money, and was respected throughout the industry.  Yet he was failing.  Unsatisfied and unhappy, he felt lost.  He had reached a point where he wanted to quit, retire, or find a new career.  In other words, he was experiencing what many executives experience as they achieve high levels of success.

In one-on-one coaching sessions that focused his attention on the factors that were affecting his experience of life, Lou came to realize he had not been proactive in going after the assets that would form a complete life portfolio.  He had assumed the aspects of his career that didn’t suit him were just negatives he would have to accept.  He reevaluated his options and further realized that he didn’t necessarily have to quit his job to change his career.

Lou began to integrate what he observed into a process of discovery to find his passion and determine a new career path.  He engaged his superiors at work to let them know he was dissatisfied and have them explore ways to resolve his concerns.  His explorations led him to realize his real calling was to lead a government agency or NGO involving the international economic redevelopment.  He and his coach built a powerful résumé.  Then he started to talk to recruiters so that he could begin a process of discreet strategic networking.

One day, quite out of the blue, Lou received a call from someone who didn’t even know he was looking and offered him an opportunity to direct the efforts of the State Department to rebuild the transportation infrastructure of a war-torn nation.  It was a two-year commitment.  He approached his CEO and asked him if he could take the position and still keep his job with the airline.  His boss not only embraced the idea, he figured out a plan to use Lou’s position to benefit the airline, and gave Lou a substantial bonus to boot.  His assumption that he would have to quit not only proved to be false, the opportunity became a win-win for everyone involved.  This was Lou’s launch into a new level of success that never would have been possible without his initial failure.  But the F.A.I.L. process doesn’t end there.

His experience in his overseas post was richly rewarding, and when he returned to his old company, he was given a promotion to an exciting new position, plus a raise.

But then something odd began to happen.  The new position turned out to be project-specific with a lifespan of only a year, after which he would be left with no path for advancement at his level of leadership within the company.  And thus the fail cycle began again.

So, he immediately applied the F.A.I.L. model again – this time with deliberate intention – focusing attention on the realities and possibilities, integrating his findings into a plan to faithfully practice new behaviors and ways of thinking, and launching into an even higher level of his career.

The end result of this cycle through the process was that even before his project at the airline ended, he had already landed his dream job as the high profile executive director of a prominent government agency and launched once again to a higher level of accomplishment.

What would have happened to Lou if he had blamed his company for his dissatisfaction and resigned?  Of course, we’ll never know, but it’s safe to say that his use of the F.A.I.L. model in pursuit of a richer, more satisfying career played a substantial role in Lou being catapulted through several levels of success!

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