The Value of Failure (feat. Omar Zenhom)
As you rise through the ranks of leadership, experiencing setbacks and failure is inevitable. But as many successful leaders will share, what we often judge as failures are merely opportunities to grow and learn.
How you respond to the tests you face will make the difference in your ability to lead successfully. Instead of looking to place blame, you have to look for your opportunity to gain insight from every experience. Take the responsibility of approaching the situation with neutrality.
What actions caused YOU to get to this point? What angles could it have been approached from differently? By stepping back and collecting the facts without emotion, the shortcomings become evident, and you can then plan out how to make more strategic action.
For Omar Zenhom, this lesson was one he reencountered time and time again on his journey of entrepreneurship. His own experiences led Omar to believe that for upcoming entrepreneurs, developing the mindset of taking responsibility from the start, could be the key to attaining success sooner.
Omar is the co-founder and CEO of WebinarNinja, a software platform for teaching, not meeting. He’s also the host of the popular podcast, the $100 MBA show. With over 100 million downloads across 1400+ episodes, the $100 MBA show consistently ranks among the best business podcasts in over 30 countries.
In this episode, Omar discusses the failures he’s experienced in entrepreneurship. He also shares how taking responsibility for those failures, and taking action from them, set him on the path to success that he’s enjoying today.
Adopting a Responsible Mindset
Omar’s first dose of failure in his career, came when he was 24. After applying for a prestigious teaching position, he was heartbroken when the school denied him and offered the position to a more qualified candidate, Gus. Despite admitting that he was not the best fit, Omar remembers how discouraging that moment was.
But what happened next would change his disappointment entirely. He shares that Gus immediately took him under his wing and provided him with invaluable experience and training; something he would never have received otherwise.
To this day, Omar is embarrassed at how he initially approached the situation. He found himself “pointing the finger at other people” and making excuses, rather than choosing to learn and grow from the experience.
“I’ve learned over the years that usually, if things don’t go your way… you’re responsible for the outcome. Meaning that, when you’re acting responsible for something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your fault. It means you need to take responsibility for what happened, for how you need to move forward, and the next steps to learn from it.”
Omar’s insight is transformational. It’s by focusing on taking responsibility in the moment, rather than asking who is at “fault,” that we proactively become an impactful leader. And in order to not succumb to failure, you must take responsibility – not just for what happened, but for what will happen next.
When faced with setbacks and delays, it’s critical that you acknowledge the emotions, but also search for what opportunities the moments and lessons can bring. As Omar says, “in the moment, obviously, it hurts, and it burns, and it feels like ‘oh, an injustice has happened.’ But at the same time, you have to realize, okay, how can I use this to my advantage?”
Not long after his first major failure in his career, Omar experienced a sense of failure again.
After spending time learning from Gus, he moved up in the ranks as an educator. Omar knew that he added a significant amount of value to the university he taught at. But when Omar approached the Dean about a promotion, he thought he’d be great for, the Dean immediately turned him down.
The decision crushed Omar. And yet, it led him to see opportunities where he didn’t see them before.
“In that moment, my frustration outgrew my fear of leaving my job and taking that full-time leap into entrepreneurship. And in that moment, I just said…I’m gonna bet on myself. They decided to make an outside hire. That’s their decision, I can’t do anything about it.”
The result of that decision was Omar creating the $100 MBA podcast a year later. Since then, the show has not only brought in over 100 million downloads and produced 1400+ episodes, but it’s currently regarded as Apple’s #1 Work Smarter Podcast. Shortly after creating the show, Omar co-founded the company WebinarNinja, a wildly innovative and successful webinar platform for coaches and creators.
By continually taking action and responsibility for his situation, Omar didn’t accept failure as an inevitability. He instead made success inevitable. He leveraged his experience and qualifications while combining them with his ambition.
“The thing about being an entrepreneur is that sometimes you have to be a little bit delusional. You have to believe in things that other people don’t or else you’ll never get started. So, yeah, have a healthy dose of delusion, but not too much.”
How effectively are you using perceived failures as learning lessons and a chance to take action?
If this is something you struggle with, here are 5 ways to shift your perspective on failure, and adopt a responsible mindset the next time things don’t go your way:
- Address and process any emotions you may be feeling.
- Recognize the moment for what it is: a lesson.
- Analyze and get a clear understanding of what went wrong.
- Ask a friend or a colleague to help you view the issue from a different perspective.
- Take new actions and forgive yourself. Develop a mantra to “Let that stuff go!”
Omar also shares…
- The importance of recognizing when something is holding you back.
- How to be deliberate in the hiring process
- Unique ways to verify the demand for a product
- How a rare spin on podcasting turned the podcast world upside down.
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