How to Deal with Thompson's 2 Kinds of Failure

Bill Abbate
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Did you know there is a multitude of different kinds of failure and success? It is true. There is the failure or success you bring on yourself. The failure or success caused by others. The failure or success of a device or tool. The failure of success of a system or organization. The failure or success of politicians, executives, and people. The failure or success of departments of the government and the government itself. There are so many types of failure and success that this list can go on and on.

Let's focus on a narrow part of failure or success - a particular part that affects us personally.

Two kinds of failure

"There are two kinds of failures: The man who will do nothing he is told, and the man who will do nothing else." Dr. Perle Thompson

The interesting thing about the two types of failure, as expressed by Thompson, is there is no middle ground. While they appear as opposites, they are on the same side of the proverbial coin of failure and success.

There is the type of person who will do nothing they are told to do. And there is the type of person who will do only what they are told. Both types fail in the world. Let's look at the extremes of these types of people.

The first is irreparable because of the chaos that inevitably ensues. These people win few friends on the job or in life. They not only cannot but will not follow instructions. They could care less and will not do what they are told. Best stay away from this type of person. It sounds like they could use some serious therapy, doesn't it?

The other type of person does what they are told to do, and nothing else. They rarely, if ever, go above and beyond. In the end, because of their lack of enthusiasm, ingenuity, and drive, they lead a mediocre existence and serve a modest function in the world.

What about success?

On the other side of this proverbial coin of failure is success. This person goes beyond not doing what he is told. Instead of fighting it and doing it, they do their work with a good attitude and can go far in life.

"The key to success is not through achievement, but through enthusiasm." Malcolm Forbes

There is that balance of doing what they are told and adding to it, enhancing it somehow, finding a better path to the same result. It is done in a spirit of cooperation, not in obstinance. It is done with sincerity and not selfishness. This type of person will go the extra mile, doing what they can to make their end product better than expected. This is the person every employer seeks.

While such a person may fail at times, it is most often not held against them and considered part of the road forward because of their honest effort and good attitude. This is a far better place to be, isn't it?

Is there a middle ground?

There are plenty of people in the middle, so yes, there is a middle ground. The world is not completely black and white but has many shades between the two. It would be highly unusual for someone to be so obstinate they would do absolutely nothing they are told or only what they are told. Yet we all know people who have a little of one of these types of attitudes. They are not usually good employees.

This concept also has an application in overall life, not only in the work we do. Have you ever met a spouse or an acquaintance that exhibits the attitudes of the two types of failure? Most of us have, and far more often than we care to admit. It starts when we enter school as a child and continues in all kinds of people throughout their lives.

"Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us." John Mitchell

Final words

It can help most of us to do a bit of introspection to determine whether we have fallen into one of these two failure traps. How have you or someone you know fallen into the trap of being obstinate? How about the trap of not caring to do more?

These traps are a dangerous place to be, not only at work but, more importantly, in a close relationship. We would not want our spouse or friend to exhibit one of the two types of failure in our relationship, nor should we.

To turn around the two types of failure, you must only recognize them and begin to work on yourself - on your attitude.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." Herm Albright

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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