Marissa Levin
CEO, speaker and writer

Marissa Levin

Founder and CEO of Information Experts, a 15-year-old strategic communications, human capital, and training consulting firm. Nationally known speaker and writer, and an expert on how to build a successful business while building a fulfilling life.


Failure is not an option

Q: What do you do when your best effort fails? BP has ended its 'Top Kill" attempt to stop the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, and will focus on containment. When a plan didn't work for you, did you quit, or keep on trying? Would you approach the issue in the same way today?

"When you're in the middle of the ocean, you have to keep swimming. Failure is not an option."

These were the words that my very first strategic advisor taught me 15 years ago when I was just launching Information Experts. I've lost count of how many times I have reached for that phrase to get me through seemingly hopeless situations as I've built my business and also addressed personal challenges.

Often when our backs are against the wall, we feel that there is no way out. Small businesses fail at an alarming rate because of this belief. So many do not make it past the five-year mark because the owners give up when they believe they have no options.

I have overcome some pretty incredible challenges in the last 15 years. There have been at least a dozen instances in which quitting would have been a realistic and viable option. But I've learned to truly believe that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I'm constantly amazed at the sheer determination I find within myself to push through a seemingly impossible situation, only to arrive in a stronger place than I was before.

I find that every time I survive a harrowing experience, I gain strength and resilience to endure others that inevitably will come my way. No one gets through life unscathed. Naturally there have been lessons learned, and in many cases, I probably would have handled situations differently. Experience is the best teacher. But I can't fixate on my mistakes. I must learn from them and move on.

With the BP travesty, I feel anger towards the CEO for a variety of reasons:

1. He has yet to claim responsibility and ownership for this disaster.

2. He had a responsibility to have contingency planning in place. Especially in precarious situations - and I would consider placing an oil well in the bottom of our oceans a precarious situation --you hope for the best but plan for the worst. You don't assume that the worst won't happen, even if the chance is miniscule.

3. He clearly took the eye off the ball to allow this situation to happen at all. Where were his safeguards? Why did he ignore problems that surfaced a year ago with this well? Complacency almost always results in a negative outcome.

4. I'm in disbelief that he has not reached out to other leaders in his industry for collaboration. Where is his leadership on this?

I'm obviously no expert on this industry. But I am not satisfied with the numbers of proposed solutions that are being presented.

Failure to fix this immediately is not an option. I'm waiting for evidence of a viable solution to halt the damage to our beautiful oceans -- I literally get choked up when I think of the lives ruined and the wildlife destroyed -- and I'm waiting for some competent leadership. Unfortunately, prospects for both seem slim.

By Marissa Levin  |  June 3, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  failure Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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