Failure. Just the thought of possible failure can almost paralyze me. “I won’t try vlogging, I’d look like an idiot.”, “I won’t ask the manager why she wants to measure that, I’m sure it’s obvious.” or “I won’t start my own coaching practice, it will never work.”
These negative thoughts are powerful because they have been reinforced at school and at work for many years. Yet in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world, failure is inevitable. Avoiding failure is not realistic, the best I can hope for is to learn from failure.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Many people are uncomfortable in the face of failure. We celebrate success, not failure. We like answers, not questions. We promote winners, not losers. “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”, as the saying goes. It’s time to change our attitude towards failure, and I want to set an example.
I need to accept my failures, even celebrate them, as long as each failure teaches me something. Why? Because I believe that if I want to continue to do interesting work, I need to continue to develop myself. The best way to do this, is to experiment and get out of my comfort zone. Which in turn means I’m inevitably going to fail.
So, how am I going to achieve my goal? I know myself well enough: I need a target, preferably a public one. For eaxmple, the best way for me to sport regularly is to sign up for an event, like a Triathlon. Better still, get people to sponsor me for that.
So here are my targets. By publishing this post, I’ve made them public. Please hold me accountable if you notice I’m slacking.
Experiment each week
I’ll set myself an experimentation target: for the next quarter (July through September 2019) I will do at least 1 experiment each week. By making experiments a routine, I hope to overcome my resistance to trying new things, and to reduce my fear of failure.
Admit and celebrate my own failures
I’ll regularly take time to identify my own failures. I’ll share my failures with appropriate humility and I’ll reflect on what I can learn from those failures. My target: starting July 2019, I will write a LinkedIn status update once a week with some of my failures and what I’ve learned. After doing so, I’ll give myself a reward of some kind (like a nice beer, or a good book).
Failures can be small things. For example, I might come back to somebody the next day and say “I feel I was too dominant in yesterday’s meeting. I should have asked you for your ideas first.” Another example: I planned a try out for a new workshop. It was my first attempt to do a public workshop, and I only announced it a few weeks in advance. Of course, I didn’t get enough registrations. I’ve learned that I need to allow more time, and spend more effort to promote such workshops.
I’m all set to start experimenting and celebrating failure. On my own if need be, but I’d much prefer to celebrate together. Will you join me? Let me know in the comments below by sharing your experiments and failures!
If you want to know more about the different kinds of failure, or about how to encourage people you work with to share their failures, why not join my workshop “Creating a safe-to-fail environment”?