Art of Failure– Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No Matter; Try Again, Fail Again: Fail Better: Embrace Failure and Learn…

Failure: It’s this ‘f”-word that most people absolutely ‘hate’… for many, failure is the worst thing that could ever happen to them… Failure elicits strong emotional feelings, such as; anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness… but the term is somewhat of a misnomer because it’s not failure per se that underlies the behavior of people who have it, but rather a fear of ‘shame’. People avoid failure not because they cannot manage the basic emotions, but because failure makes them feel– deeply ‘shameful’…

However, failure is inevitable and learning from failure is a choice; if you choose to– admit, accept, and learn from failure, then you are well on the way to the mastery of your own fate… According to Joe Kraus; people who have no fear of failure are merely dreamers, and the dreamers don’t build great companies. The people who thread the line between ‘vision’ and ‘healthy fear of failure’ have the magic formula for success– they are not paralyzed by failure but energized and driven to be more persistent, and to work harder…

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In modern cultures, success is the high altar of achievement and failure is the dungeon of fear… But cultures that celebrate success without fear are in fundamental conflict with– entrepreneurship, innovation, risk-taking… Success without failure is simply; luck… Innovation is a double helix built with creativity, risky exploration, testing assumptions, learning, re-trenchment, re-creation, re-exploration, re-learning, mutation, and eventual success…

Failure is not the opposite of success, but its compliment… failure must be embraced as an essential platform for innovation and success… But in business, failure is often seen as a dirty word– no one wants to be responsible for a critical commercial flop… But without taking risk and pushing boundaries, business remains stagnant and the creative spirit is wasted on fears… Failure is just a synonym for experience, so maybe failure isn’t such a dirty word after all…

In the article The Art of Failure by Malcolm Gladwell writes: Executives sometimes falter under pressure; they fail, and they can failed in different ways, e.g.; some ‘panic’, others ‘choke’, and still others are ‘clueless’… But, what do those words mean? The word ‘choke’ sounds like a vague and all-encompassing term, yet it describes a very specific kind of failure, whereas ‘panic’ is something else altogether. People with lots of relevant experience tend not to panic, because they drawn-on their wealth of experience…

Panic causes what psychologists call– perceptual narrowing… and, in this sense, panic is the opposite of choke. Choke is about thinking too much; Panic is about thinking too little… Choke is about loss of instinct; Panic is reversion to instinct… They may look the same, but they are worlds apart.

Why does this distinction matter? In some instances, it does not much matter, e.g.; if you lose a customer’s business, it’s of little consequence on whether you choked or panicked; either way, you lost. But there are clearly cases when; how failure happened is central to understanding… why failure happened, which affects the type of remedy that might be appropriate for next time…

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In the article Art of Failure and Why It’s Good for You by Caroline Dowd-Higgins writes: I was in job interview when the interviewer asked me the question; What was your biggest professional failure? This question really freaked me out, since I did not want to expose my vulnerable side or my true weaknesses… Apparently, the interviewer was trying to see if I had the humility to admit that I failed, the ability to bounce back and learn from my mistakes… and the courage to move forward…

But, I was so stuck in not wanting to expose my flaws that I blew a teachable moment, and I could not admit the possibility of a failure… Failure should not be a mark of shame, but a badge of honor showing the world that you are willing to try again… Here are some failure lessons:

  • Assemble Support Group: Make sure you have unconditional supporters who will let you talk it out, work through the pain, help bring you back to emotional normalcy. Active-listeners are essential as you process your failure and begin to learn from these mistakes…
  • Twenty-Four Hour Pout Period: Give yourself time to grieve your loss, and spend minimal time commiserating and indulging in ‘what if’ scenarios… make a clean break with the past and focus on the future. Give yourself a 24-hour ‘pout’ period when you can really– rant, rave and vent emotions. It’s cathartic and clears the deck emotionally for what is next…
  • Give Up The Guilt: Skip the shame; sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Embrace constructive criticism, and fight perfectionism; it’s unattainable and debilitating… focus on what you do well and not what others think… Move on!
  • Take Risks Again: Take the time to unpack your failure and figure out what you have learned, but don’t let the set back deter you from moving forward. If you stop taking risks you will become inert and lose your mojo and, more important, your nerve. Be a creative innovator, take prudent chances, and learn how to fail…

In the article Strategies for Learning Failure by Amy C. Edmondson writes: The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible, yet the organizations that do it well are extraordinarily rare… However in the vast majority of enterprises, managers are commitment to help their organizations learn from failures and improve performance… But, most managers think about failure in the wrong way… their deep believe system says– that failure is bad… They believe that learning from failure is very straightforward, for example; just ask people to reflect on what they did wrong, and exhort them to avoid similar mistakes in the future… or better yet, assign a team to review and write a report on what happened and then distribute it throughout the organization…

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But, these widely held beliefs are misguided: First, failure is not always bad… Yes, it’s sometimes bad, sometimes inevitable, but sometimes even good… Second, learning from failures is anything but straightforward: The attitudes and activities required to effectively detect and analyze failures are in short supply in most companies… Organizations need a new and better ways to go beyond lessons that are superficial, e.g.; just saying that– ‘procedures were not followed’, or self-serving statements, such as– ‘the market just was not ready for this great new product’… are not good enough. The ‘best’ solution is to jettison the old cultural beliefs and stereotypical notions of success, and embrace the ‘real’ lessons of failure…

Inevitably the ‘blame’ game gets in the way… ‘failure’ and ‘fault’ are virtually inseparable and everyone learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the ‘blame’… That is why so few organizations shift to a culture of ‘psychological safety’ in which the rewards of learning from failure can be fully realized– this is a culture that makes it safe to admit and report failures.

So, how do you evaluate the blame game? Consider a few examples;  if its deliberate deviance it obviously warrants blame; if it’s inattention it might not; if it results from lack of effort maybe it’s blameworthy; if it results from work fatigue maybe the manager who assigned the task is more at fault than the employee… Hence, as you go down the list of blamable offenses, it gets more difficult to find blameworthy acts… In fact, a failure resulting from thoughtful experimentation that actually generates valuable information maybe praiseworthy…

In a speech Fringe Benefits of Failure by J.K. Rowling: This is about benefits of failure… However, the fact that you are graduating from a prestigious university suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure; although you might be driven by a ‘fear of failure’ quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success… Ultimately everyone must decide-for themselves– what constitutes failure…

However, the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it… So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale, for example; an exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it’s possible to be in modern Britain… without being homeless but by every other usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew…

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So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure means a stripping away of the inessential… I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and I began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. And if I had really succeeded at anything else, I might never found determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged… I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized; I was still alive, I still had my old typewriter, and I had a ‘big’ idea… And so, rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life…

It’s impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all– in which case, you fail by default… Failure gave me inner security; failure taught me things about myself that I could not have learned any other way, e.g.; I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies…

And, most important, lessons learned from these setbacks meant that I was wiser, stronger, and more secure in my ability to survive, thrive… You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships, until both are tested by– adversity and failure…