Are you failing enough?

June 19, 2010 by Merlin

If not, maybe you should. In this day when everything is visible and privacy is lacking, everyone tries to look as successful as possible. Failure and mistakes are viewed as negative things that should be avoided at all times. But is that the right approach?

There are two ways you can look successful: you can really be good at something or you can avoid mistakes. And here lies the problem. You can’t be good at something without a learning period in which you WILL make mistakes. Nobody is born with the knowledge of how to drive a car, run a business, pass an exam or cultivate a garden, those are all learned skills.

So, how to learn and do something and avoid mistakes and failures at the same time? You can’t. Not possible. No, really, you can’t.

Many people find a safe haven in not doing anything. That way they can’t fail. The most common excuse is “Now is not the right time for that” or something similar. Years go by, always waiting for something, afraid to take the first step, fearing what will others say, will they look funny or do they have the knowledge to do it. Let me quote one business book on leadership:

Don’t wait for the sure thing, it will never come. Life is not like that. Business is not like that.

You have to overcome that initial fear, try and make that first mistake. And then the second. And third. What does that mean? It means you are learning. Edison said it best:

If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.

After some time passes and you make (too) many mistakes you’ll find yourself reflecting about the whole process. You will realize you’re much smarter and better at doing that specific thing. You will also realize that you wouldn’t have come so far if it weren’t for those mistakes.

It is very hard to admit to yourself and others that “yes, I have made a mistake”, but when you can do that, you have the power. And it is a true power of self-consciousness and of knowing your strengths and limitations. The more quickly you do all the beginner’s mistakes, the sooner you’ll get to success. So, are you failing fast enough?