The Success of Failure: A Coming of Age Fable About Overcoming Failure Despite Ourselves

The Success of Failure: A Coming of Age Fable About Overcoming Failure Despite Ourselves

by Mike Bensi
The Success of Failure: A Coming of Age Fable About Overcoming Failure Despite Ourselves

The Success of Failure: A Coming of Age Fable About Overcoming Failure Despite Ourselves

by Mike Bensi


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Even for leaders, the thoughts and beliefs they have about themselves can hold them back from their day-to-day life. The Success of Failure tells the story of a young and growing leader finding his way in a new role. When he is confronted with failure and conflict, he falls in confidence within himself and with others. The Success of Failure provides a path to allow us all to pick ourselves back up and be stronger than before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683504245
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 10/17/2017
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Mike Bensi has spent nearly two decades watching organizations struggle with the idea of leadership and leading others. He's watched countless rising stars move into a management role, only to see the star fall from the heavens because of the perceived lack of leadership and management skills. Or was it the lack of tools and resources that caused their downfall?

Back before he started consulting with organizations, the topics surrounding culture were still in their infancy. Yet, he realized the importance of culture and putting employees first, and started teaching these lessons with the businesses he worked with. But now, culture and newer generations are here – and they’re here to stay. And both are vital for the success of the future of every organization.

Today, Mike helps organizations and leaders create strategies to transform their cultures, and the leaders who are there to support the transformation.

Mike enjoys spending his free time with his wife and three children. He also enjoys running and anything outdoors. Mike received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Universityof Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He obtained his MBA from the Indiana UniversityKelley School of Business.

Read an Excerpt



All of Tony's big decisions happened in the shower. However, after minute thirty-two, he found himself no clearer than when he started. The ice-cold water flowing from the showerhead wasn't forcing the issue. Shivering in the shower, he was determined to continue until he had an answer.

Two days ago he received a job offer. Not just any offer, but the offer. Tony had been keeping his eye on this company since its launch just two years ago. He had introduced himself to the founder. He had kept in touch with the CEO. Tony didn't believe in fate, but he knew he was in the right place at the right time. And while most people would be thrilled at the chance to work at the fastest growing tech firm in town, Tony had been anything but thrilled for the last forty-eight hours.

The offer itself wasn't an issue. In fact, it was exactly what Tony had envisioned — the right role, the right team, the right pay (if there was such a thing).

You know you're going to take it. Kate texted him after she got the news. After a year of dating, she knew Tony's painful decision-making process all too well. She had seen him go through this before, including when she had patiently waited for him to ask her out for the first time.

Despite his struggles with decisions, Tony had built a strong reputation during his young career. Immediately after college, he did what both of his parents said he should do, which was to find a job with a large and stable company that he could grow with. Even though he was young, he was eager. He quickly learned the various roles thrown at him and navigated his way into one of the more senior project management positions after only eighteen months. After two years in the role, Tony realized he'd have to give up another decade of his life to make the next jump up the corporate ladder. So despite his parents' wishes, he gave up their dream and found a small technology startup to join. As employee number ten, he helped hire the next ten and then the next ten. By the time the company signed a buyout deal nearly four years later, Tony was playing a significant role managing the product development side of the firm. Given the fast-paced environment at the company, he never technically managed anyone. Instead, he relied on his ability to easily connect with others to turn big ideas into real and meaningful outcomes.

But this role would be different. He would have to update his LinkedIn profile to say vice president. And the title would mean something because he would be leading such a large part of the business and the people responsible for its day-to-day operations. He wondered if they'd call him "Boss."

"You're pretty lucky," he said to himself. "You've always been at the right place at the right time. Thank goodness you've had other people around you. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here. But your luck is bound to run out soon."

The numbing of his back from the cold water stopped those thoughts. He asked himself one more time, What's it going to be?

He turned off the water.



It was a cool spring morning. Tony walked down the street with his hands in his pockets and his earbuds in position. Born and raised in Nashville, he was quick to find the latest hot releases in town. He focused on the music spilling into his brain rather than the nervous feeling he had throughout his body.

He remembered the last time he was viewed as the new guy. It had been a few years, but Tony knew the first-day drill: signing paperwork, awkward introductions, and more paperwork. But whatever Tony had imagined happening on his first day at Gr8Lyf (pronounced "great life"), he couldn't have been prepared for what he saw as he entered the lobby.


Tony ducked to the floor, closing his eyes. Thinking either a car had just hit the building or the floor above had collapsed, he slowly opened his eyes to see confetti raining down from the ceiling and a familiar face holding what looked like a simple piece of PVC pipe.

"It's a potato gun," the man said, as if that explained everything. "I made it myself. Do you like it?"

"I love it," Tony said, slowly rising from the floor. "Do you shoot at all your employees, or only on their first day?"

"I can't shoot at the people I pay. You're early and not on the payroll yet."

The two men warmly shook hands. "I'm so glad you're here," the man said. "You're in the right place now," he added, still holding the handshake.

The man was Jack Allan, CEO at Gr8Lyf. Jack was on his second midlife crisis, even though he had only recently passed fifty. His first life had been spent successfully creating two companies. Both focused on the nebulous world of online marketing; even he at times found it difficult to tell the difference between the two. He would joke that was why he ultimately sold off both firms.

This time around, he was like a kid in a candy shop. The charismatic smile that shined out from his well-trimmed stubble told everyone around him that he was going to win. Again.

"It's how I greet all my new hires. Here, let me show you around."

"You have some confetti stuck in your shirt," said a soft voice. "Here, let me help."

"Thank you," Tony replied, rubbing his head as he felt for any other pieces that might have been hiding.

"I'm Lori, by the way. You're our new VP, right?" Tony nodded slowly, almost unsure of how to respond. He knew he would need to get used to that title eventually.

"You'd better get used to ducking around here. He shoots people all the time!"



Jack walked Tony through the lobby and into the main office, which was a loose term. The area looked like the company had set up base camp at the bottom of Mt. Everest. Desks were clustered together as if the employees might need to huddle together to keep each other warm. Some groups were focused on their computers, while others huddled in deep conversation on couches they had pulled over to their workspace. Tony took in the view of the surrounding neighborhood buildings, the river below, and the early spring sun shining through it all. He found the entire scene almost magical.

Gr8Lyf was located in a part of town that was emerging from its own midlife crisis. Ten years ago, the area was a sleepy strip of road with a few businesses surrounded by homes. In part because of the successful efforts of Jack and other community leaders, the neighborhood was now a top hot spot for small businesses. Walk south and you'd find the latest food trends mixed with the local flare of Nashville B&B (barbecue and beer) stops. These up-and- coming restaurants rivaled the taste of what you could find downtown, but without the tourist feel. Head north and you'd find a greater mix of choices along with fashion stops that catered to the outdoorsman and working professionals.

While great food and music were the heart of the city, companies like Gr8Lyf were helping Nashville become known for more than that. They were making sure the heart kept beating by recruiting young professionals to the area and keeping them in town. Still considered a startup, Gr8Lyf had received so much local and regional recognition for its technology innovations that city officials pointed to the company as a reason for Nashville's enhanced reputation.

Jack snapped Tony out of his trance by reintroducing him to a familiar face.

"Who let this guy in?" said Kyle.

"You did, or have you forgotten already?" Tony replied quickly.

"That's right. I guess I do have my faults," Kyle said with a smile.

Kyle and Tony had met during their first job out of college. New to the company and the working world, they instantly bonded as more of a survival tactic than anything else. Kyle was great at opening doors and making connections throughout the bureaucracy of the corporate firm for which they worked. Tony knew how to put puzzle pieces together to make sure the products delivered for clients. That made Kyle look good, and his bosses took notice. As Kyle grew within the company to eventually lead the department, which included sales and product development, Tony followed close behind with his own success. Kyle always ribbed Tony that he wouldn't have been anywhere without him.

When Tony left, Kyle continued to grow in the company and led record- making achievements over the next two years. Kyle's success often led him to tease Tony that he had held him back.

As the men's careers grew stronger, so did their relationship. They started exercising together, finally landing on running after an unsuccessful attempt at CrossFit. Tony had been the best man at Kyle's wedding just over a year ago. And Kyle had introduced Kate to Tony. It only made sense that the two were working together again.

Kyle's business card read "Vice President of Customer Opportunities." Although Gr8Lyf attempted to steer clear of overinflated titles, it was an awkward way of saying Kyle led all sales, business development, and marketing efforts as well as the people who supported those functions.

"I'm really excited you're here," Kyle said.

"I'm sure you are," Tony replied. "What did you screw up this time?"

Kyle laughed and looked at the floor. When he looked up, his face was serious. "No, I mean it. You're going to have a real positive impact here. You said so yourself. Right, Dave?"

Tony looked behind him to see Dave Whitney walk up. Unlike the others Tony had met that morning, Dave wasn't engrossed in his phone or computer. Rather, he held a small leather-bound notebook, with a pen that acted as a bookmark. He was the oldest employee in the company, which wasn't a hard- won honor at Gr8Lyf. Even Tony felt old looking around at the younger faces in the company. If Tony had to guess, Dave would be close to his father's age.

"I did say that. Welcome aboard, Tony." Dave greeted Tony with an outstretched hand. "And it looks like you're already settling in if you're putting Kyle in his place."

Tony laughed. "Thanks, Dave. It's a real pleasure to be able to work with you and the team."

Dave's fingerprints were on nearly all of Nashville's most successful ventures. He had personally started, funded, or helped manage multiple companies over the last thirty years. And although Dave's reputation in town was strong and successful, it was for very different reasons than the other leaders of his caliber. Dave preferred playing a supporting role rather than being in the CEO's spotlight. Because of this, Tony hadn't had much interaction with Dave. Even during Tony's interviews, Dave was quiet, preferring to take notes in his notebook instead of add to the stories the others told. When Tony did hear Dave speak, he was purposeful and thoughtful in the questions he asked and comments he made. Tony found his interviewing style one of the hardest parts of his interview process. Most everyone, including Jack, treated the interview as a sort of social hour. During Tony's meeting with his potential team, they talked more about who had traveled the most rather than about the role or Tony's leadership style. But Tony was intimidated when he met with Dave. Part of it was the age difference and the accomplishments Dave had achieved in his career. But the questions Dave asked during the ninety minutes they spent together were direct and almost personal. His questions focused on Tony's experiences and results. Because talking about himself was one of his least favorite things to do, Tony was uncomfortable with his responses. But Dave's demeanor made it somehow bearable, even enjoyable. Tony was looking forward to getting to know him better.



"And here is our new VP of Customer Awesomeness," Jack yelled to another corner of the floor. As they approached, Tony could see six people huddled together in front of one computer. It was his new team.

"Good morning," Tony said, worried he was interrupting something important. He tried to remind himself that he was going to have to get past that, but the size of the group sent a visual reminder of how overwhelmed he was with the idea of managing this team.

The group jumped up, as if the approaching footsteps had woken them from a trance. They each turned around and stood at attention. Tony would have thought of the group as an army platoon if it hadn't been for the oversized nose-and-glasses disguises they wore.

"Yes, sir!" they shouted.

Jack leaned over to Tony. "This was not my idea," he whispered.

They were lined up tallest to shortest. "Roll call," shouted the tallest.

As they rattled off their names, Tony felt more at ease with the fun nature of the group. He put his hands behind his back and stuck out his chest. He walked back and forth in front of the line, looking each person up and down. He was enjoying the bit and playing along. When the last person finished, it was Tony's turn to do the shouting.

"Thank you," Tony barked in the best military general voice he could muster. "I'm impressed by your ability to remember your own names and what you do. I hope you'll help me remember what I'm supposed to do with the title I have."

The group laughed. They, along with Tony, thought his new title was silly as well.

Tony softened. "Thank you for the fun welcome. I'm really looking forward to getting to know each of you and helping Gr8Lyf go to the next level."

At that, a loud horn sounded, as if they were at a hockey game and the home team had just scored a goal.

Tony gave a confused look — something he was quickly getting used to.

"You look lost," said Molly, one of his team members who approached him as the group broke formation. Tony remembered her from the group interview right away. She had lived in nearly half of the countries in Europe during her role as a consultant with IBM. Her resume was intimidating, yet her demeanor was anything but.

I feel like I don't belong here, Tony thought to himself.

"Yes. What was that noise?" he said to Molly.

"It's time for morning standup. Don't worry; first days can be tough," she said.



Tony and Molly joined another team member, Robert, as they walked down the hallway. In contrast to Molly's professional experiences, Robert had started his own company before he joined Gr8Lyf. It was a success for everyone except Robert. Although he had sold the company at a very nice price more than three years ago, he still believed it could have been something bigger.

"If only I had known you were looking," Robert said to Tony. "We could have been something!"

"Let it go, Robert," Molly said, rolling her eyes and looking at Tony. "He can't let it go. He's just glad there is someone new here to listen to his stories."

Tony laughed awkwardly. He had prepared himself for being the new guy, but even so, this much attention was starting to wear on him. And it was only 9:15 a.m.

Robert didn't let it go. As he talked about his last company, he explained how he believed he was living his second life. While he still dreamed of what could have been with his creation, he was now content to help other entrepreneurs, like Jack, in whatever role they needed — even if it meant taking on the role of a utility player.

"Well, I'm sure the team looks up to you, given everything you've accomplished," said Tony. Robert's resume and list of accomplishments were impressive. Tony found himself wondering how he had landed this role instead of Robert. Or Molly. Or anyone else for that matter.

"Don't tell him we look up to him," Molly quipped. "We don't need his head to get any bigger."

Robert rolled his eyes. "We're in here," he said.

Most of the other employees, just over forty of them, had gathered in the room by the time the trio arrived. For as open as the office was, this room was much different.

"Well, this is tight," Tony said out loud without realizing it. Molly and Robert didn't notice the comment, but the constant shuffling of feet made it apparent that everyone in the room would have agreed with him. The tight quarters gave a feeling that they were meeting in a closet. Tony did have to admit that without chairs, the space seemed workable for the meeting. The one chair that was in the room was being used by Jack, who was standing on it.

"OK. Big day today. Let's get started. Can somebody start the clock?" Jack said.

Tony looked up and saw 15:00 appear on a mini-scoreboard and then start to tick down second by second.

"Happy Monday, everyone. I'm really excited to introduce our newest member of the team. He's been stalking us for a number of years, and I'm glad to say that we've been doing the same."

Jack paused. After he got the laughs he was looking for, he started again. "We are very lucky to have him, and he's going to help us go even further toward our vision. Tony, please say hello and give us some insight into that great brain of yours."


Excerpted from "The Success of Failure"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Mike Bensi.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Decision,
Familiar Faces,
Meeting the Team,
Morning Standup,
The Walk Home,
First Look,
Sound Check,
Teacher's Pet,
A Crack in the System,
Off the Pedestal,
Sinking In,
The Wall,
True Colors,
Uncomfortably Numb,
Digging In,
Looking in the Mirror,
Starting Down the Path,
Back to the Beginning,
Starting Fresh,
Getting to Work,
Asking the Questions,
All Together Now,
Welcome Back,
Finding the Words,
Two's Company,
The Final Touches,
The Pitch,
Making Your Own Moves,
About the Author,

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