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Brian Sanders “Lets Talk About Failure”

interview-briansDear Christian Radio,

We don’t talk about failure much, do we?

But here’s a recommendation for you – read more about failure than you do success.  Yes, there are actual books about failure.  Better yet, read stories of failure.   Why?  You’ll become a better leader.

Failure and perseverance, they mean you’re learning.  Thomas Edison is quoted to having said, “I have not failed.  I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   Just because you have one quarter of bad numbers doesn’t mean you’re done.  It means you’ve found what isn’t working and now can figure out what does.

Are there stories of failure in print?    Yes, and I recommend you start with these;

  • Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry by McNish & Silcoff
  • Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Remember, Jobs was fired by Apple and failed at Next)
  • Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz

Every leader fails.  The goal in reading about the failure of others is to hopefully avoid failure in your own leadership journey. 

Blackberry only saw the mobile market as it was at that time, not what it could become.  (Hey radio, sound familiar?)

One could say that Nixon’s personal mission statement was to unleash revenge on his enemies.  It eventually became the source of his downfall. 

Jobs was so focused on the bark and leaves of each tree that he couldn’t see the forest.  It cost him his job at Apple.  Sometimes it takes multiple failures before you learn a lesson and Jobs did just that at Next. 

Starbucks almost went bankrupt.  Schultz takes you on a tour of bad decisions and bold risks that eventually brought the company to what it is today.  

Why do I read those books? 

Because I sometimes believe that radio will always be radio and shrug at the idea of innovation.  Blackberry inspires me to lead a team that can create the future of radio.   Even if we fail a thousand times, we keep experimenting until we strike success. 

I also have a heart that at times is full of anger and resentment.  Nixon’s shadow reminds me to let go of petty arguments and never allow bitterness to be the determining factor in decisions.  

I need Steve Jobs in my head to reminded that it isn’t just about numbers and details, but the overarching vision that gives the organization it’s soul. 

Starbucks proves to me that we can reinvent ourselves.  Coffee is just a product one can buy anywhere, much like the music on our stations.  But it’s the experience of Starbucks that keeps bringing customers back, a lesson I try to drive deeper and deeper in to the culture of Positive Alternative Radio.

Finally, don’t cover up your failures.  Own them publicly with your team.  For the record, they see you daily and experience the successes and failures of your decisions.  Embrace your humanness and march forward.  You’ll be a better leader and they’ll be a better team.

Dear Christian Radio,

  1. Never give up no matter how many times you stumble. Keep going. 
  2. Learn from the failures of others. You’ll reduce your chance to make the same mistake.
  3. Be authentic with your team. Don’t hide your failures.  Discuss them with your team and what lessons can be learned.

Remember…easy never changed the world –


Brian is the Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio in Blacksburg.

PAR has five brands which include Spirit FM in Lynchburg, VA; WCQR in Kingsport, TN; Positive Hits, WPER in Richmond/Fredericksburg, VA; Joy FM in Winston Salem, NC; Walk FM in Ashland, KY, Huntington,WV.

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