Thursday, January 21, 2010

Embracing Failure? Are You Crazy?!

Why do we fear failure? What is it about “failure” that is so scary? Most people do fear it, don’t they? Many of us get going on a project and we spend much of our time worrying about whether or not our project will succeed. Instead of spending our time-crunched focus on how to make our project succeed, we instead lose all focus and spend our time worrying about the end result. We want to be successful. We want to impress everyone else. We want to be perfect. I’m with all of you, stuck right there in this category, and I’m guessing you and I are not the minority. I mean, sure, there are those out there that embrace failure. But, for most of us, we are terrified of failure. Why?

I think there are some obvious reasons as to why we fear failure. We don’t want to disappoint others. We don’t want to feel ashamed. We don’t like rejection and criticism. We feel as though failure makes us weaker. Oh, what a wrong attitude to have. I’m just as guilty as the next person. I’ve had all these feelings. But, isn’t the fear of failure selfish? Aren’t the reasons I pointed out here purely selfish? Yes, they probably are…..but still, that’s not the point.

My point is, we have to get past this fear of failure. We have to learn to embrace failure. I know that’s quite an astonishing statement. Am I saying that we have to strive for failure? Heck no!! That would be outright silly! I’m just saying that we can’t be afraid to fail. If we are afraid to fail, then we will be afraid to try. We’ll miss out on opportunities. Couldn’t it be argued that our biggest failure could be failing to do something we want or love to do, just because we are afraid we might fail at it?

Okay….back to the point: Embracing failure. I challenge myself (and each and every one of you) to learn to embrace failure. We don’t have to like failure. We surely don’t want to strive for failure. But we do need to learn to embrace it when it happens, and embrace the possibility of it happening when we venture out and try something new. Accepting that failure happens, and embracing it when it does happen, helps us learn. Think back to something you have failed (and failed miserably) at. Wasn’t that one of the best lessons you have ever learned? See, we can learn all kinds of neat things by reading books and studying history, but the lessons learned and knowledge gained as the result of failure is what will really stick. Learning from failure is where we make huge strides towards our overall success. It’s the journey folks. It’s not about having all the right outcomes, as it is about learning from those outcomes, whether they be successful outcomes or failed outcomes.


Bruce Lynn said...

The sentiments of embracing failure are all about living in a world of risk. The essential role of a leader/manager is to make decisions in an uncertain world with an uncertain future. If it were all 'certain', then business would be nothing more than a coin-operated spreadsheet. For those interest in digging deeper into 'embracing failure' in the context of Leadership and Management, it is a topic that I have been blogging about for many years.

Eric Peterson said...

Thank you for stopping by and giving great insight into the topic of embracing failure. I like how you put it "The essential role of a leader/manager is to make decisions in an uncertain world with an uncertain future." I couldn't agree more. I look forward to checking out your blog.