Failure sucks. We go into things -- new projects, new relationships, new diets -- with optimism and excitement and enthusiasm. And when they don’t work out, when we “fail,” it sucks. We feel defeated, discouraged and sad.
Yet everywhere you look, you are being encouraged to “fail.” Failure is great! Failure is essential! Take chances and fail fast! Failure fuels growth! Failure is the only path to success!
They are right. But let’s first acknowledge that failing sucks, even though it is an critical element of growth and an essential landmark on the path to success.
But not all failures are created equal. Productive failure requires three things.
First, you must understand that you tried something and failed, not that you are a failure. In precisely the same way that we don’t want to label a kid who has “done something bad” as a “bad kid”, don’t label yourself a failure because you tried something that didn’t work.
Second, just because you tried something that didn’t work before doesn’t mean it won’t work this time. Or next time. Or the time after that. There is no guarantee of success when you take a risk, but there is a guarantee that if you don’t try, you have zero chance of success.
Finally, in order for your failure to be great, you must learn something from it. Perhaps not right away while the sting of failure is too fresh but you must find the fortitude to look back on your failures and figure out why the plan didn’t work as you had hoped. Usually, it is one of these four reasons:
You didn’t want it enough
You didn’t prepare enough
You didn’t know enough
Something out of your control got in your way
Yup. Failure sucks. But it is also a necessary pit stop on the road to success. So reach for the stars, dream big and fail spectacularly.