5 Reasons Why Failure Is Actually Pretty Awesome
Just recently, I watched the TV show Dino Dana with my five-year old, and the lead character explains to her sister that in science, there’s no such thing as failure. She says any question or experiment, even if they appear to be mistakes at first glance, should instead be thought of as lessons. Failure teaches us a valuable lesson: We should keep trying, no matter what.
Isn’t that true for so many things in life?
When we’re young, we’re taught that failing is a bad thing. We’re taught that you did a “bad” job when you got questions wrong on a test or you weren’t capable if you underperformed in sports. When in reality, those “failures” gave us insight about ourselves and our environment. When we’re shown what we don’t know, like in the example of a test, we can then adjust our approach to understand it better, leading to a higher score in the future.
Here’s the thing: Failure isn’t an end point. It’s not a closed door or the final chapter of a story. Failure is simply a step toward success. It’s time we start treating it that way.
Let’s explore five reasons why embracing failure is a pretty smart approach to living your best life — personally and professionally.
1. Failure informs us.
Every failure you face presents an opportunity to learn from it. If you’re finding yourself getting small things wrong over and over again or making one monstrous mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, analyze the situation. What could you have done differently to get a different result? What variables affected the outcome? By understanding what happened — and why — you’ll be able to grow in the future. The information gleaned will make you better prepared moving forward.
2. It also enhances growth.
You’ll never know what you’re able to achieve until you push yourself just slightly out of your comfort zone. Weight training is an excellent example of this. No one walks into a gym for the first time with the expectation that they’ll bench press 300 pounds. In fact, weight training involves a progression of weight increase over time, and the idea of lifting something so heavy might feel impossible. Not being able to do something at one point in your life doesn’t mean that you can’t do it in the future.
3. Failure motivates us.
Failure can also be a great motivator, especially when you’re confident in whatever it is you’re trying to attempt. Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, was rejected 28 times on his first manuscript, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Later, he became one of the best-known children’s authors.
Imagine if Geisel stopped on the 28th rejection. The world would have never known Dr. Seuss and his many incredible characters, and Geisel wouldn’t have known the massive amount of success that would come his way. His work has been translated into 20 different languages, and more than 650 million copies of his books were sold in 95 countries.
4. It even inspires others.
If you hold a leadership role, there’s even more reason why failing at work is vital to your organization’s success. You owe it to your team to show them your commitment to trying new things, to challenging the status quo, to reaching great heights, in spite of the possibility of failure. Without the bravery this requires, nothing would change. And without seeing this strength in their superior, your employees won’t rock the boat themselves, stymying their creative geniuses and opportunity to initiate great success.
In his book Poke the Box, Seth Godin says, “Once you’ve engaged with an organization or a relationship or a community, you owe it to your team to start. To initiate. To be the one who makes something happen. To do less is to steal from them.”
5. Failure rejects regret
How many times have you avoided failure only to look back and wish you had tried anyway? Maybe it was telling your supervisor that you’d like to be considered for a promotion. It could have been going back to college to finish your degree. Regret — what we wish we did, but never made ourselves vulnerable enough to do — usually has a way of haunting us. Being brave enough to risk failure creates a world without regret, and that seems like a beautiful place to live.
It’s simple: You can’t fail if you don’t try. If you’re anxious to step out of your comfort zone, here’s your permission to take that risk. Try something new. Be vulnerable. Take chances. Grow.