Wouldn’t that be cool? We should try to drink a lot of water, and there are times in our life where we do digest faliure like water. Think about a baby, Babies fail at most everything they try for several years. In fact it is only after serial failure that an infant is able to have any success. So why does that change? Why do we transition from dealing with failure as an opportunity to try again, to a viewpoint that for many of us says we should not try anything that we don’t already know we can succeed at? Surely there are more reasons that can be listed in short blog. But the themes that keep us from trying are probably far fewer.
I don’t want to embarass myself.
I need to be right.
My self image cannot handle a mistake.
I will be punished for failure.
Failure is costly.
My ego won’t let me ackowledge a failure.
They are all variations on the same theme. I am scared, I will feel humiliated, someone will criticize/make fune of me, mistake are bad. The plain and simple truth is that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. We don’t innovate, create, or learn in a particularly effective way unless we make mistakes – fail along the way. So why as we mature do we become so averse to these kinds of learning opportunities?
I am not suggesting that we risk it all and succumb to what my daughter and her friends refer to as “epic fail.” But there is a place in between taking no risks and completely throwing caution to the wind. It is a place where we take the knowledge and expertise learned over the course of our lifetime and we try new things. We leverage that information in new contexts with ideas that though unproven at least have some odds at succeeding. And sometimes we fail. Some failures are life threatening – most are not. Some failures are very public, think BP and its ability to successfully drill in the Gulf. And some failures just teach us that it is ok to take a risk, have it not turn out as planned and that the whole world will not come crashing down on you.
The truth is that for many of us the possibility of failure so outweighs any potential positive outcomes that we are unable to try. And so over time we lose that ability digest failure. In fact the thing that drives learning in the early years a ends up working to slowly strangle us as we age.
What could you do… If you could digest failure like your body digests water?