Copyright © 2019 Nina Joshi Ramsey

Celebrate Failure? What the...

January 15, 2012

Startups must embrace failure.  Fail hard, fail fast, move on.  The ethos is that nothing happens perfectly so better to try out and fail than not try at all.  Besides failing is one of the rites of passage so being scared of it means you always take the safe path and never venture out to where big rewards could be.  But there is risk attached to that.  

I am sure the advice to startups doesn't mean fail at everything and keep changing goals but it's about taking away the fear of failing and what it means in the traditional social, economic, internal sense.  Failing is part of growth, be it personal, professional, business, fitness, spiritual.  We are brought up to believe failure is undesired, yet if you always succeed, there is a strong possibility you are only doing what you know you are good at.  That could lay a small boundary.  And what's so scary about failure, apart from the conditioning we've got?  Isn't it simply a step?  Isn't it another word for trying?  You try, try and try till you succeed.  Well, in all those tries, you haven't succeeded so does that mean you've failed?  Does trying and putting effort into something mean failing?  Re-framing failure is what mentors do for young businesses, but it can be for everyone.

Failure is on the roadmap to eventual contentment.  You'll have tried out other options and refined them or veered to those that are better fits for you.  It's true, if you fail an exam, you're done.  I was so used to A's when I was growing up, I barely accepted B's.  I look back and think about the wasted moments feeling I just hadn't done enough when I got B's or the dreaded C's. But with the experience and wisdom we gain in our lives, surely we can update and educate that model of failure originally built by a 6-year old or 8-year or 10-year who needed to pass to move on to the next class.  We should be able to see what failure really is when it's not in that type of filtering environment.  

It's no longer only a measure of 'pass to the next class', or 'fail dumbo'.  It's a possible consequence of daring into unknown territory, which means tackling fear and aspects that stretch us beyond our perceived capabilities.  Sometimes we don't stretch enough, don't accomplish the task and feel inadequate.  And that would be right.  Of course we feel inadequate...We are on new grounds.  We are not stomping on grounds we know pretty well and that we can feel good about navigating perfectly.

In the new venture, there is not much to reassure us that we know what to do.  We are guessing and hoping and trying. It's not that we are not good enough full stop.  It's that we may not be good enough for this new venture yet, like going into a new maze for the first time after knowing an old one inside out.  You can choose to continue navigating the old maze or you can choose to beat yourself up when you get lost in the new maze.  The challenge is in figuring it out.  So what's the point in being in a maze you've already figured out?  Besides, you can always go back to the old maze.

We may spend years coming to grips with new challenges and yet are still trying because we have seen something special in them or what they bring and mean.  We may have to motivate ourselves and pick ourselves off the ground because we believe in something others don't see.  A reward only we sense.   It means when the doubts come, we may question and check and re-check and maybe even try out other options that may feel like they have the answer for us, but stick to our guns when we have to.  We may have to block out voices other than those that support and champion us.  Imagine the marathon runner that is so blistered up, he should not take another step, and yet he knows what it will mean to him to finish.  That is the place he will get the resource to push himself.  Does that sound like failure?  

 

Much of life's challenges are like a marathon.  The rewards are not immediate and you and others may lose hope and faith.  And you may be right to do so.  Only you can know that because you made the choice.  You must have seen something in being there, or in the rewards, so check on those again.  Maybe there's an easier way to get those things.  Sure, then change tack.  Or maybe you are simply tired.  But be sure you change tack for the right reasons.  Although if they are not the right reasons, you can always come back.  That's the  opportunity.  It's a marathon.  Not a print where you make your choice and that's 

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that's where you will find success." 
- Thomas J. Watson 

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