The Power in Failure

We all know what it feels like to fail. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the sense of shame and embarrassment, the regret of not having done things differently. Failure is never fun, but it is also an inescapable part of life.

Taryn Rose, creator of one of the most highly sought-after brands in footwear, suggests that we “Fear regret more than failure!”

No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe – at some point, we all will take risks and face the possibility of failure.

Failure is your friend

Many of us grow up thinking failure is unacceptable. School, grades, and sports teach us this when we are so young. Then as adults – relationships, financial decisions, business deals – we see things through a pass/fail lens.

As a result, we spend a lot of time in the land of perfectionism where there are very few risks and even fewer chances for failure. But what if we started to view failure not as an end point, but as an opportunity?

There is power in failure

Every time we fail, we have the opportunity to learn and grow. We can use our failures as a springboard to propel us to greater heights. By understanding and embracing the power of failure, we can turn it from a negative experience into a positive one.

Seeing failure in a new light, we would become more resilient, more adaptable, and ultimately more successful. We would increase our tolerance for experimenting and desensitize to the cultural stigma of what actually IS a failure. And an added bonus would be that we model an attitude towards failure that inspires those watching (because they are watching).

Fail well

Things aren’t going to always work out on the first try and in life there are going to be moments when you wonder, “could I have done better, or more, or less?” While these questions, with genuine curiosity, are healthy, there can also be a downside to too much focus on asking them. What you focus on, you feed.

So how can we fail well?

  • The first thing to do is redefine what failure is to you. This can vary by situation/project/relationship. That’s ok. Pre-determine your definition of failure for your specific situation. What you think of failure makes it so.
  • When you fail, look for the lesson. There is data you collected as a result of trying and it not going as you hoped. What was it, and how you can you use it? (And, is it really failure if you learned something?)
  • Lastly, normalize failure. Assume it will happen and get excited for what you will learn when you are in it. When you don’t get flustered or defensive by a failure, you encourage others to do the same. This can shift the tone at home, and entire cultures of teams and organizations.

By reframing our idea of failure and embracing it as a natural part of the learning process, we can set ourselves up for success in anything we do.