Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn?

Failure. It’s a daunting thing. People like to talk about celebrating failure. They champion it like it’s something to do.

I think that’s ridiculous.

Let me start off — I’m a big proponent of failing fast and making mistakes. I think it’s a great learning tool. As it goes,

“Good judgement comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement.”

But some people talk about failure as if it deserves the merits of success. I don’t agree with that. While I believe failure certainly is a prerequisite to success, I don’t think it is an indicator.

Failing makes me nauseous. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. You fail because you were wrong, because didn’t try hard enough, or because you just aren’t good enough. Failing is a direct reflection of your ability. So when you fail, it means you suck. And that sucks.

I juggle between two thoughts. 1 — I fail because I’m trying new things I’m uncomfortable with, moving forward and learning. 2 — I fail because I suck. I didn’t think it through carefully enough, and it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. To be honest, I’m not sure which is true. (Although I think I know the answer ;))

What I can say is that I learn by doing. Some people like to think through a million scenarios before deciding on anything. I act, and then improve iteratively. To me, thinking and theory are great — but there is no teacher like experience.

As a result, I move faster than others. As another result, I’m usually the first to make mistakes and break things. And get in trouble. But I also typically learn at the highest velocity.

The toughest part for me is not letting the fear of more failures become the driver. It’s easy to crawl into a hole and pity yourself. Hope time will wash it all away. It doesn’t, and by staying in the hole, you make it harder to get out.

The way to overcome the fear and the failure is to move on. Move forward, be bold and make the best of what is remaining. Oftentimes I’m able to rise out of the gutter and succeed just by acting as if my prior mistake was totally insignificant. Inside, the mistake eats at me day by day until I’m able to drown it out with a resouding success.

Let victory wash away the stench of failure, not time or pity.

It’s a struggle, and I’m hoping to get better at it. I often wonder if I should be more concerned about failing less or learning to overcome the inevitable failure better. I have no idea.


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