'Failure is the cornerstone of success', says adventurer Monty Halls

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
9 October 2015

The England rugby team will be strengthened by their failure in the World Cup, according to adventurer Monty Halls.

Speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference in London, Halls said in any complex situation, failure of some kind was inevitable but you could learn from this.

“Wherever you get complexity, you get failure,” he said. “If you expect it then you are geared to deal with it. Failure is the cornerstone of success.

“This England rugby team will walk away considerably stronger. There is no such thing as true failure.”

Halls, who was a Royal Marine for eight years before becoming a marine biologist and setting up an expedition company, said an important part of leadership was knowing when your “moment” had come.

“This is my moment. It’s no-one else’s. Everything I have learned up to this point comes to this moment. So much of leadership is recognising that moment,” he said.

Halls said in any project there was a “red star” moment, when following a major setback you were faced with a decision to carry on or give up. He said it was important to take ownership of the decision and realise the bitterness and regret that can follow. “It’s a time when you make a decision. It’s your decision,” he said.  

Halls said from his experiences he had learned a lot about human nature by observing people in “pressure cooker environments”.

“I was learning about people and the hard drive of all of us under stress, in difficult situations,” he said. “The performance I have seen from people in these extreme environments is extraordinary.”

Halls said it was important to consider your identity, because this informed your values, which keep you going in adversity.

“Your identity might be your nationality, your family, your peers,” he said. “When everything else is stripped away, what keeps you going? If you haven’t got it you’re knackered.”

But he added: “Your limits, like your fears, are largely an illusion.”

Speaking of his time in the military, Halls said he saw no active service. “I did nothing. I organised a few aggressive volleyball games and some vicious barbecues,” he said.

However, he did assist Nelson Mandela with the task of getting ANC guerrillas to join the South African army following the fall of apartheid. “The country was a powder keg,” he said.

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