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There is an old saying that knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is to understand that it should never be included in a fruit salad.

When a student graduates from medical school they are a Doctor.  Within five to 10 years of successful clinical practice, hopefully they become a physician, a term that reflects judgment and understanding of the patients they care for.

Wisdom cannot be learned in a classroom.  It comes from our successes, and from our failures – lessons learned as we benefit from our correct choices and, conversely, from the mistakes we make. 

It is amazing how many times executive candidates freeze up when asked about their failures.  They seem to be calculating the pros and cons – a quick and dirty risk-reward analysis – of whether to answer truthfully, or to punt. 

As a healthcare recruiter, I am particularly fascinated that so many executives struggle with this question given the complexity of the challenges of managing a hospital.  Sometimes it is because they were caught off guard by the question.  However, more often than not, it is because they believe that if they admit failure it will somehow compromise their chances to move to the next phase of the recruitment process.

Baloney; in fact, if you have been an executive more than a month, you probably have already had one painful lesson learned.  Embrace it and forthrightly explain the takeaway.  

Even a negative can become a positive.

© 2012 John Gregory Self