Don't Fear Failure

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4 Minutes
Last updated
March 27, 2024
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The way I see failure has changed massively from when I was a child.

Failure was always a negative word. It was a word which I dreaded, for the tone accompanying it was often clad in disappointment, sadness, and sometimes even anger. The fear of it led me to an even bigger failure; I stopped trying.

Circle forward to today and I’m glad to say I know differently.

Failure is an opportunity.

Henry Ford said it right when he said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Failure means you’ve taken action. You’ve done something that didn’t work. But from this disappointment comes information.

Yes, the information will inform you of failure. But it also presents a unique opportunity to question, ​investigate ​and subsequently ​think critically​ about the failure. It is a chance to escape your epistemic bubble. As a child, the negative vibes associated with failure prevented me from seeing what might have been.

How often does that happen to you?

I think about another quote, this one from Narcotics Anonymous, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Whether a decision fails or not, frequently the path that takes us there is the insanity loop. We do the same things, over and over again, but expect different results.

To find the opportunity in failure, the first step is to stop repeating what you’re doing. Breaking the ‘insanity loop’ means questioning the outcome—the failure—by looking to understand what was going on that led to the failure. A good place to start is with ‘what’:

  1. What worked?
  2. What could I have done better?
  3. What would have helped?

Each is obvious in its intent, that it is to objectively analyse the failure. Each question challenges you to bring the intelligence Henry Ford talked about. The power of critical thinking becomes clear as you start to break the failure down by these three questions.

Questions always matter more than the answers.

Decision growth means not fearing failure as I did when I was a child, but embracing it. Challenge it with questions — like the three above. Seeking the opportunity to begin again, but more intelligently, is how you make progress.

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