Failure is not Final

I was recently listening to an episode of the Tim Ferris Show with acclaimed restaurateur, Danny Meyer.  You may know him as the founder of a little burger joint named Shake Shack, perhaps you’ve heard of it?.   

See the full podcast here

Anyone who leads a team that has even a tertiary focus on customer service should listen to the episode.  Their conversation wondered from leadership to attributes of a winning associate, to surviving the pandemic, to taking care of your employees, to building a hospitality focused culture and a great deal more.   But the portion of their conversation that stuck with me was a story of failure.  More poignantly, how Danny reacted to a particular failure.

It is easy to forget, or at least overlook, that long before Shake Shack was a thing, Danny was a multiple James Beard Award winning restaurateur with multiple Micheline Stars.  His restaurant Maialino is a New York City icon that attracts the upper echelons to it’s tables.  Beyond just exquisite food, a restaurant of the caliber of Maialino delivers an experience.  An experience that depends on both product quality and service.  It was clear that service is what consumes Danny’s focus.  How to hire the right team members, how to honorably split with the wrong ones, how to build a service culture within an organization.  So you could hear the hurt in his voice when he began to tell the story of when friend and marketing thought leader, Seth Godin, had a less than stellar experience at Maialino. 

While we do not hear what specifically went awry with Seth’s experience, we are provided a clear lens into Danny’s approach to dealing with failure.  With a sense of urgency that comes through the headphones, Danny says:

“I have to write a next best chapter to this story.”   

Danny Meyers

The sentence struck me so hard that I had to stop my run, rewind, and listen several times over to make sure I captured it correctly.  As I dissected the seemingly simple sentence, I identified four key wisdoms around failure that Mr. Meyers expresses in those eleven words.

The story is not over:

So many times we see a failure as finality.  The simple recognition that there is a next chapter to the story should empower us all. 

Failure should motivate:

I love the determination the sentence exudes.  “I have to write” implies a compulsion, an inner burn, to improve the situation vs. settle for failure (back to the story not being over). 

We control how we react:

Reaction is a verb.  It is an action.  By expressing that the reaction is to write, a creative process, it implies that we have the ability to control the creation of the next action.  It is non-reflexive but rather intentional and self-designed.

Perfection will not get in the way of Great:

This was why I had to listen to the sentence about 5 times to make sure I heard it correctly.  Danny had to write A next best chapter – not THE next best chapter.  This implies that there are multiple positive possibilities to move forward to.  I think so often we, or at least I, look for the perfect solution to failure.  Or the biggest win to offset the loss.  That is not what Danny expressed.  He had to write A next best chapter….not letting perfect get in the way of great.

It was a beautiful expression of the reality we all face.  We are going to experience setbacks in our life.  Be they customer service, business, relational or personal setbacks long term success is not avoiding the setback itself but how you react to it.  What the next chapter in the story is.

So the question really is….how do you write the next best chapter to your story?

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top