Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


What is failure?

Q: After two unsuccessful seasons, Washington Redskins Coach Jim Zorn was fired from his job this week. How hard is it for people to recover from being labeled a failure? Do you think Zorn will get another chance to coach in the NFL?

The only person who stops after a failure is the person who gives up. Winston Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." He knew what he was talking about.

Churchill's political career careened from one rocky episode to another. Yet, what is he most remembered for? It is his leadership of the UK during WWII and becoming the first person to be recognized as an honorary citizen of the United States.

Jim Zorn will determine his own fate by how he uses his most important asset: his state of mind. Do not underestimate the power of the human mind to take the most difficult challenge and turn it into the greatest success. Recall the Phoenix.

Zorn may even parlay the Redskins experience into an exceptional opportunity.There is a bit of IBM lore that tells the story of an executive being called into the CEO's office after a mistake that cost the company $10 million. It was the 1960s, and the CEO was Tom Watson.

As the story goes, Watson asked the man if he knew why he'd been called in. The man said he thought he was going to be fired. Watson replied, "Fire you? Why would I do that? I just spent $10 million to train you!" Zorn has received a training none of us would ask for, yet it is exactly the kind of adversity that often produces true greatness.

Will Zorn get another change to coach NFL? He will get more than that if he can first get a perspective that puts his Redskins experience into a transformatonal, constructive context.

By Seth Kahan  |  January 7, 2010; 1:02 PM ET  | Category:  failure Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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