7/14 LA Times Magazine article titled "Failure"

Discussion in 'Trading' started by ddog, Jul 16, 2002.

  1. ddog


    Did anyone else happen to read this excellent article?

    It seems studies have been done on very successful people in whatever their profession (athletes, engineers, traders, etc).

    What they found with extremely successful people was first they all experienced massive failure. For only through this failure were they able to identify what they were doing wrong and make the adjustments necessary to finally turn it around. Even though this turning around period also involved more failure. Only those who refused to quit made it to the top of their profession.

    My question to all you successful traders ( I don't care how much money you make just that you are able to support your lifestyle solely through your trading) is what was your biggest failure point where you felt like giving up but didn't and what adjustment to your trading approach did you make to turn it around?
  2. So far so good.
  3. I'm just speculating here of course, but it could have a lot to do with just the fact that they are taking chances. If you take enough chances you will fail eventually. If you never failed, then you probably didn't take enough chances.
  4. shyhh


    For me, the more important thing is perseverance. Anything we do everyday has a fair probability of going wrong once in a while no matter how much care we put in. Failure, big and small, is part of the package.

    The thing is, no matter what happens, we have to tell ourself to carry on.
  5. Do they write articles about the ones who experience massive failure but don't go on to become great?
  6. ddog


    No I guess they don't. They just go on to live their lives in anonymity.
  7. Is this the right place to do that?:D
  8. cartm


    Can u post a link to the article, or the title of article, or the author, I would like to read it thanks.
  9. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena had never failed so spectacularly. In late 1999, two spacecraft sent to explore Mars suddenly vanished when they reached the planet. The first headed to the dark side and disappeared. The second reached its destination in fine shape, but it stopped sending signals as it approached the rocky surface.

    The immediate price of the two debacles included the $360 million invested in the missions and a big slice of JPL's pride. But in the months that followed, the intangible cost, in terms of low morale, seemed to grow ever larger. The leafy JPL campus in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains became even more quiet. The chill also spread through the nation's small community of deep space explorers, as engineers and scientists were transferred, demoted or left for other jobs. "It was a bleak period," recalls David Spencer, who was responsible for making a success of the next Mars flight-named Odyssey. A boyish 36-year-old with short blond hair and blue eyes, Spencer has spent much of his adult life in pursuit of the heavens. His career at JPL, where he has specialized in the mechanics of flight, had been marked by one success after another. "We hadn't had a major failure in decades and here we had them back to back. There were some pretty heated conflicts over what happened, a lot of finger pointing and accusations."

    The Odyssey mission became the focus of the lab's desperate effort to recover both the public's trust and, more important, its image as competent and successful. "A failure would have threatened planetary exploration," he says. He expected added pressure and accepted extra eyes peering over his shoulder. But he had never imagined that his colleagues would become so grimly obsessive.

    "The worst was when I went to Denver for a meeting, even though I was very sick. I ran into one of our guys at the airport and he started grilling me right there in the gate area. Then when I fell asleep on the plane, he woke me up and started asking me questions. 'What if this happens?' 'What if that happens?' I thought he was going off the deep end."

    But in going off the deep end, JPL's engineers eventually discovered the likely reasons for the two disappearances–the technical causes as well as a dysfunctional work culture that contributed to the errors. Along the way, they also learned a lesson they had not expected. JPL's shame, recrimination and eventual recovery taught them how people and organizations respond to failure, one of the most valuable and least-talked-about human experiences.

    Lately, however, the subject of failure has captured the attention of sociologists, investors, engineers, scientists and sports performance experts. Their purpose is to find clues into why failure occurs and how reactions to it determine future success.

    "Everything relates to failure," says Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University in North Carolina. "We grow up experiencing failure as children and then we go through it as adults. The key is understanding that failure is how we improve. You do this not by ignoring the failure, but by recognizing it, examining it thoroughly and not making any changes until you truly understand it." Companies, government agencies and even entire professions can learn from failure in the same way, Petroski adds. Civil engineers, for example, have analyzed catastrophes and integrated lessons learned over time into the design and construction of future projects.
  10. While experts such as Petroski labor to dissect the dynamics of failure, the rest of us know that human disasters are innately fascinating. "There is a certain staring-at-the-car-wreck aspect to the curiosity people have about failure," notes Jason Zasky. "And there may be some Schadenfreude, you know, a pleasurable feeling people get over someone else's disaster. But mostly there's this realization that some people who have great failures ultimately succeed. It doesn't always happen. But we see that people fail because they are willing to take risks, and those are the people who often achieve something."

    Zasky should know. In July 2000 he founded an Internet-based magazine called Failure, which publishes articles on debacles as well-known as the Edsel and as obscure as the Jadis, a hybrid tea rose that was a commercial flop because people didn't like the name. After early struggles, Failuremag.com became one of those rarities in cyberspace: a Web site that didn't fail, and even became profitable. Its success reflects a certain respect for the subject of failure and, perhaps, a new sophistication about the phenomenon itself.

    "I don't think we're like Japan, where failure is always a dirty word," Zasky says. "Here people sometimes see it almost as a matter of pride, that they at least tried. And I think there's a fascination with how some people fail, but don't give up, and the next time really succeed."

    This phenomenon, of the failure who resurrects himself in spectacular fashion, was formally documented in 1938. German psychologist Sara Jucknat reported that people who fail at something they deem vital to their identity will often set an even higher goal the next time. Their hope is that they can erase the failure with an impressive success. Along the way they prove to themselves, and perhaps the outside world, that they are, in fact, competent.

    Though Jucknat's seminal study made the dynamics of success and failure a hot topic for a decade or so, interest cooled. It was revived in the 1970s and '80s by researchers who preferred to study human strengths rather than pathologies. Martin Seligman is a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a pioneer in studying how people cope successfully with adversity. His writings on "learned optimism" became classics in this field and inspired dozens of academics to begin looking at the positive qualities that help certain people rise above hard times. They found that those who turn failure into advantage share a handful of characteristics:

    They possess the analytical skills to take apart a fiasco and understand it well enough to make changes, says George Vaillant, director of the Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School. Vaillant has seen people develop this trait and use it to create successes, even late in life.

    They have "the capacity to form meaningful relationships," Vaillant says. "These people can metabolize others-taking in what they have to teach-rather than being oblivious. These are the ones who find mentors throughout their lives. They have the ability to find meaning in what happens to them."

    They also have the ability to be realistic, rather than undyingly optimistic, in the face of crises. Business management guru James Collins, author of the recent best-selling book "Good to Great," says this point was brought home vividly during an interview he conducted with a Vietnam War prisoner, a retired naval officer. Realists succeed under the worst conditions, the officer said, while optimists "died of broken hearts."

    As with every aspect of human behavior, genetics and environment-nature and nurture-play significant roles. Indeed, children seem to develop what psychologist Salvatore Maddi calls "hardiness" at a very early age. Maddi, a professor at UC Irvine, conducted a pioneering study of this trait, following 450 middle managers at Illinois Bell Telephone through the upheaval that came with deregulation of their industry. Many lost their jobs.

    "Two-thirds of the sample fell apart," Maddi says. "There was violence, strokes, suicides, depression. But one-third not only survived, but thrived." Among those who did well, Maddi found a great many had been raised in more stressful family conditions and had endured more hardships. "They had also been nominated as the 'hope of the future for the family,' and they had accepted the role."
    #10     Jul 16, 2002