Epic Fail – Why Failure Is Essential

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Life can be an intimidating and huge beast. It’s full of uncertainty, anxiety, and so much hope. In recent years, I’ve noticed a few key traits imbedded in the successful people I’ve met. Today, I’m honing in on failure.

Failure is something many of us fear. I mean, why wouldn’t we? Right? Nobody wants to fail. When you fail you look stupid. You feel like an ass. You feel as if everybody around you is judging you. The experience pretty much sucks in its entirety. But here’s the thing…

Failure is essential.

All of the most successful people I’ve observed in life have a total willingness to fail, and come up short. It might seem contradictory that failure often leads to success. However, there is truth in it. But how does failure lead to success?

Action

The people that are willing to fail are the people that take action. Often, the fear associated with failure is immobilizing. Those that act on their ideas or beliefs are willing to brave the risk of failing. Because of this, they tend to get more done even if they are met with a number of flops. You can never know your potential if you aren’t willing to take action.

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Learning

Failure involves a willingness to enact trial-and-error. This is a major component to children being such explosive learners.

Have you ever seen a 4 year old on a cell phone? These little buggers can’t even read, but are somehow able to translate, and navigate their parents’ devices. Even I remember being a kid with an original NES system, unable to read, yet still being able to navigate the games. It all comes down to trial-and-error.

Kids in this age group have little understanding of the consequences involved with failure. They don’t really have the mental empathy to care if they mess up your device, or delete a saved file. Young children have a zest for simply trying and failing until they receive their desired result. Why do you think the generations that grew up side by side with technology tend to be so advanced in its use? Those kids — now adults — almost intuitively understand a lot of technology because of their early learning with it. Aside from that, they still manage to retain little fear with regard to messing up a system because they know that they can always either hit edit undo (cmd-z) or Google how to fix whatever they mess up.

Trial-and-error — aka learning through failure — generates a stronger understanding of what works and what doesn’t, yet you’ll notice that many adults are too afraid to attempt something on a computer for fear of “messing it up.” That fear immobilizes them, and generates many tech calls to their children for troubleshooting. If the parent, or whoever were willing to fail multiple times, they would not only gain a deeper understanding, but also be able to solve their personal issue.

The tech example is only one, but I’m sure all you smart capable folk can cross apply this on your own.

Deeper Understanding & Life Experience

By failing we gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. Failure not only shows us what will happen in the worst case scenario, but also allows us to experience a full life. The Teddy Roosevelt quote at the top touches on this — it’s basically why I chose it. Refusing to experience failure tends to result in a refusal to experience success.

I personally relate this to being on antidepressants — something I’ve experienced for a short 6 months before bailing on them to simply face my issues head on — a conversation for another day. Anyway, you’ll often hear people say that being on antidepressants is like being under a wet blanket. You don’t really feel ups or downs — no emotional peaks or valleys. I’ll tell you straight up that this is a crummy way to live your life, and a big part of why I chose to go off the meds, and deal with the issue more holistically.

This perspective can be applied to success and failure. Sure, you can go through life at an even keel of OK, and you will definitely find that failures will come to be a rarity. However, major successes will similarly be rare. I’m sorry, but you can’t have your cake and eat it with this. Life’s a lot like gambling. You can’t have a big win if you aren’t willing to accept risk. You won’t get the hottie across the room if you refuse to talk to them. You won’t score that dream job if you never apply. You dig?

Failure is a part of life, and it is completely human / OK to fail. You have to do it if you want to live. And through your failures you will gain a deeper understanding and empathy for others in their lives. I think that’s huge here. Letting yourself be vulnerable — little Brené Brown action here — and just showing up as a flawed person goes a long way in life. Danielle LaPorte mentions in The Fire Starter Sessions– and I’m paraphrasing here — that she once signed a contractor in part because they were so uncool about getting the job. That contractor let their giddiness show on the other end of the phone line, and it made the employer love them for it, and sparked their own personal excitement about the project.

I’ve personally found vulnerability to be a powerful trait in my life as well. I once had a professor tell me, that I needed to reel my emotions in, and that I was too open with people, but the months that followed with that advice sucked. I felt like a smothered robot. You have to show up as yourself because you’re not living your life if you don’t.

Failures are Stepping Stones

That’s really what I’m getting at. Everyone fails, and when you’re upfront — even proud — about your failures, people naturally relate. Entrepreneurs are often willing to talk about their failed companies because it shows bravery. Trust me, your employer knows what failure feels like, and if you’ve learned from those failures then you’re all the better for it.

Failed relationships – You’ll avoid going down those paths again.

Failed business – You can analyze where the idea got derailed, and correct it for next time.

Failed skill – You can now break it down into a manageable chunk and master it.

Failures are the stepping stones that lead to mastery.

Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something. – Jake the Dog

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