Talk the Walks: Learning To Deal With Failure


Failures are the pillars of success. At least, that’s how the saying goes. But in reality, failures are not fun. Having something you worked on fail at any phase can have a serious negative affect on one’s attitude. So how does one deal with failure? Well, that’s what the latest edition of Talk The Walks, hosted by Anura De Alwis aimed to cover.

As per previous sessions, this too was held at the Noteworthy Café. The 11th edition of Talk The Walks had R. Renganathan – Executive Chairman of Ceylinco Life and Tharaka Gunasekara – Head of Marketing and Communication at HSBC sharing their views on failures.

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Tharaka Gunasekara – Head of Marketing and Communication at HSBC, Anura De Alwis and R. Renganathan – Executive Chairman of Ceylinco Life sharing their views on failures.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Renganathan started off by emphasizing that you fail because you don’t prepare yourself. Even if you fail, don’t think of it as a failure. Rather, think of it as a challenge to be better than you were. Renganathan went on to talk about his early life in school.

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Despite being a chartered accountant, he did not want to deal with figures. Rather, he wanted to be in an industry that made a change to society. Thus, he decided to enter the insurance industry. and numbers There was a risk that his decision would result in failure, but he still stood strong and decided to go ahead with it.

Things may not always go according to plan

Tharanga also shared his life story beginning from his school days. He showed a particular proclivity for medicine. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well as he had hoped. Nonetheless, Tharanga entered the pharmaceutical industry as a medical rep. Even though he was unable to keep up with society’s standards of what was expected of him, Tharanga grew his network and capabilities. “We all have to sell something in our lives”, he added.

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What is failure?

According to Renganathan, failure is a state of mind. Failure is the exact opposite of a person who has wealth, power and status. Each of us has their own strength. It is up to us to find out this strength. Renganathan also explained that it is an employer’s duty to help their employees find their strengths.

Failure Talk The Walks
Failure is a state of mind (Image Credits: Goalcast)

Tharanga’s views were about testing and learning. We test out something and learn from it. As a human being, we will inadvertently face failures. It’s about how you mentally prepare to handle it. If you prepare badly, then the effect of the failure will be equally worse. The beauty is that you will face failure, but you also have the ability to course correct. Even though we face failures, it’s how we bounce back that’s important.

Hiring employees is a risky business

When it comes to hiring people for an organization. It’s always a risky situation. Despite the qualifications that a potential employee has, there’s always a chance that the employee might not work out as planned. At this stage, it’s also too late to course correct as well. So it’s a calculated risk.

Talk The Walks Failure
Hiring the correct employee is a tricky thing to do (Image Credits: Lynda)

Renganathan explained that unlike the previous generation, the younger generation is a lot more impatient. If something doesn’t work out, they don’t have the patience to course correct and set it right. On the other hand, the older generation would take a more patient approach to see things through.

Some failures hit harder than others

Renganathan also openly addressed a key turning point in Ceylinco’s life which was the Golden Key Credit Card company. He explained exactly what happened and what went wrong and the steps that were taken to rectify the matter. His point was that there comes a time in life when you would have to make decisions about the failures you have endured. But with the correct steps, you can overcome them.

Failure Talk The Walk
The Golden Key Credit Card fiasco put Ceylinco in extremely dire straits (Image Credits: PYMNT)

Tharaka also added to this by saying that in the event of a failure, there are two steps that can be taken. One is to learn from the mistake and move on. The other is to sit around moping about it for the rest of their lives. As a leader, you have to motivate your employee to put aside the mistake, learn from it and move on.

Teamwork makes the dream work

When working with projects, it is essential to set up a team whose goal is to minimize the risk of failure as fast as possible. It is also recommended that you do a test pilot project. The recommended course of cation is to do so in a limited area. That way, if something goes wrong, it’s only a small area that is affected and you can always course correct.

Talk The Walks Failure
A good team is important in order to minimize failure (image Credits: Lynda)

An interesting question that came from the audience was how to keep employees motivated in the event of a failure. Tharaka’s views were to try the project, do an analysis of what when wrong and course correct and try again. While it may seem like a painfully obvious answer, it is nonetheless highly effective.  

In terms of leadership when facing failure, the correct leader won’t look at failures as a bad thing. Rather, they would look at it as a learning experience on what not to do. It’s a collective responsibility after all and should be treated as such.

A leader should be an enabler

In addition, it’s important for a leader to create an enabling environment. This makes is possible for your team to make decisions. You should always remember that the intent in deciding is always positive. No one wants a company or project to fail. It’s just that the way they make the decision or carry out a task might need some rectification. Renganathan added to this saying “don’t let one failure affect your overall decision and/or goal”

With failure also comes a considerable amount of stress. Most of the stress comes because you failed to plan. But you also must ask yourself “Have I tried my best?” If the answer is an honest yes, then you have nothing to be stressed about.

Talk The Walks Failure
A good leader should also be an enabler (Image Credits: CBTNews)

It is a leader’s duty to create an environment to fail fast, learn from their mistakes and drive innovation. In short, failure is not a bad thing. It’s about how you choose your team and make future decisions with the data you have. You have to think in a startup mentality. You need to take risks without fear. But you also need to have a valid reason for taking these risks. If you’re good, you can’t be put down for a long time. Your work will indeed gain attention by your peers.

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With a customary group photograph, the 11th edition of Talk The Walks came to an end. Till next time


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