Failure sucks. There are no two ways about it.
Fail Forward. Fail Faster. Yes, yes, yes. But it doesn’t make failure suck any less.
But, after the disappointment of failure there is a brighter, bird filled side.
I remember failing in college.
For years, I said I would study abroad, after all this is what college was about. Well, I got to my sophomore year and I realized that nope – I will not be studying abroad. I was devastated. I really had planned my junior year abroad like people plan weddings. I wrote an email to my mother stating that I was a failure and screwed up college. I lost my excitement about my senior year. I just didn’t see the point any more.
I came out the other side. I realized I needed to add some planning and intention coupled with action to my life. It was a “growing up” lesson.
I have failed since. I sometimes feel like I’m failing now. The great thing is my relationship to failure is changing. I wish I could say it has changed. Alas, I am not so transformed as to dance with failure like it’s a long lost partner. So, for now, it’s a changing relationship and I’m happy about that.
One day I will be able to say without sarcasm:
Until that time. I will play with my feelings of failure knowing that they are not me, but still make me sad.
How do you deal with failure?
When I was at the conference for Global Transformation that questions was asked. Actually they asked “Where are you afraid you might suck?” And to tell the truth of it. Everywhere. I am afraid that I might fail in all that I do. How about that to start off a Saturday morning?
But that question really got me going. If I am afraid about everything that I do then I don’t have any freedom. If I am always worried about how bad the outcome might be then I am not looking for ways to create what could be. I am not open to the myriad of possibilities that don’t include failing. Because I am only look for ways that I will fail.
A self fulfilling prophecy.
In short you can’t create yourself if you have to NOT fail. If you are looking to always avoid failure then you will only participate in those activities that will guarantee not failing. In short, the same thing you did yesterday is what you will do today. Now, sometimes that’s a good thing. You stopped at a red light yesterday and you should also stop today. But what about taking on a big project? Last time you did it, things did not end well. Does that mean you will never attempt something big again? Giving yourself the room to fail at something you’ve never done before allows you room to grow.
Did you speak English perfectly at 1? No, you failed at pronouncing “lamb” correctly but that didn’t make you mute. You learned and corrected your mistakes. You were driven by a greater need. The need to express yourself to your parents and peers. You knew that this tool would allow you to get what you wanted. You now can express complex ideas, tell people you love them, create works of art, buy a house, order food, all through the use of language.
My “I don’t have to be perfect” Happy Dance
In failing you have to accept being imperfect and use others where your weaknesses are. When I got that I personally don’t have to be perfect, that I could make my perfection out of the support of others – I got a whole new freedom. I didn’t have to know everything. I didn’t even have to know most things. I just knew that there are things I want to do and I might make mistakes. In fact, I was going to make mistakes and it didn’t matter. Those mistakes were not me. Those mistakes were not the sum of what makes me me. Distinguishing that my mistakes were not me allowed me to see all the success that I was not able to see before. Before my mistakes negated my success because successful people do not make mistakes like that. By acknowledging my fears and knowing that they are always lurking in the background I am now empowered to look them in the face and say “Today is not your day”. Where are you afraid you might suck?