This article is not suggesting or advocating perpetual failure in all facets of one’s life, but rather bringing to light that failure is part of growth and success. In today’s society, many go to great lengths to mitigate failure. These efforts, to remain “safe”, may rob people of valuable lessons that come with failure. Regardless of the precautions one may take, failure is inevitable. We all fail. In various aspects of our life, we will come up short. We will make mistakes. Failure is wasted when the lessons from failure fall on deaf ears. However, when one learns from his/her failures, progress is made and character is formed. Fear of failure inhibits one’s ability to take calculated risks. These risks, or opportunities, may lead to something wonderful. Achieving excellence is rarely possible without a degree of risk. Fear of failure will hold us back from exploring what is possible.
Calculated versus Reckless
No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “I can’t wait to fail today!” However, when we plan our day, month, year, etc. we must take into account areas we are willing to take some risk. These risks can be calculated, when the risk taker understands as much as possible, the degree of risk versus the potential reward. Reckless risk, on the other hand, often comes with a greater degree of risk and little to no upside. This isn’t a foolproof formula, but the one whom calculates risk, even if they fail, will typically have a greater takeaway than the one whom takes frivolous risks without weighing the costs.
Response to Failure
Whether we take a risk and fail, or if we encounter failure unexpectedly, how we deal with failure often provides the degree which we receive insight and perspective. Whining about failure or dwelling on our failures doesn’t serve ourselves or anyone around us. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be able to mourn a failure. Grieving a failure is an opportunity for your feelings to release in a healthy way. However, if you camp out in self-pity, that is problematic.
Look at failure as a teacher. What could be changed in future attempts to court more favorable results? Often, with status (how people view you) being so high on people’s list of priorities today, people are afraid to fail. They are afraid to look foolish or perceive that others will look down on them for their failures. Our populous celebrates success. We promote it, and aspire to it. This is why there are awards, why there are 40 under 40 lists, why people get ranked by their net worth, etc.
The irony is, that in truth, people can relate more to other’s failures than their successes. When you hear a story of someone overcoming adversity, it touches your heart. It brings hope to others to see how people have overcome failure. The misconception with this is that when viewing these stories, one whom has overcome failure, we assume that failure will no longer be present in their future. That is simply not true. We all fail in many ways. Some minor, some major. How we deal with these failures will determine our personal and professional growth and lean toward each of us having a healthy perspective.
Innovation Courts Failure
The discovery of the new comes with a price. Often that price is a series of failures. It is not uncommon for someone whom is willing to imagine the new, to consistently question whether they are doing the right thing. To wonder if they are crazy for being the only one whom envisions a particular innovation. Often, it is the conviction within the person that drives them from failure to failure until they succeed. Not everyone is built this way. In fact, most people are not. It takes thick skin to truly innovate. However, those that have pressed on have changed the world.
Every one of us can innovate in various ways. Perhaps innovation is simply a change for the better in one’s life. How ever we decide to invent, or reinvent, our current situation, be cognizant that failure may occur. At least initially. Change takes practice. When change involves more than one person, it takes practice and patience. This is applicable for a manager in the office, or a parent/spouse in the home. Regardless, fear of failure should not derail one’s actions in pursuit of the better. Acceptance that failure may occur, and the perseverance to keep going, will undoubtedly give more opportunity for success than failure.
How each of us view failure will help determine whether or not the failures in our lives produce growth. A helpful acrostic for how to view failure is listed below:
Fear: how is fear of failure holding you back from taking calculated risks?
Acknowledge: understand that success and innovation often court failure.
Insight: what insight can you gain from failure?
Lessons: what lessons have you learned from previous failures?
Understanding: what understanding have you gained as a result of past failure?
Rationale: does your fear of failure outweigh the potential consequences of failure?
Empathy: do you have empathy for those whom may try and fail?
Accept that failure is a part of life. It is for all of us. Don’t allow fear to keep you from taking calculated risks. Know that failure can be a teacher and build strong character. Don’t allow what people think to keep you from pursuing your goals. Understand that positive change often results in preliminary failure but perseverance can lead to success. Failure is not taboo, it is part of life. How we view failure will often play a role in determining our success in business and life.
Next time you are afraid to fail, ask yourself “am I afraid of being perceived as a failure, or do I fear the actual consequences of said failure?” You may be surprised to realize that often it is the fear of being perceived as a failure that holds us back instead of the actual consequences of failure. Failure can be an excellent teacher and motivator, if we let it.
Here is a reminder that just because something has never been done before, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
Rob Comeau is the CEO of Business Resource Center, Inc., a husband, father, child of God, and part time failure. You may contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or view the offering at Business Resource Center, Inc. at www.biz-rc.com.