Some people never fail. They’re the ones with no aspirations, no will to excel, no guts. Hopefully, everyone reading this fails. Repeatedly.
Still, we’re all tempted to put failure behind us and forget it ever happened. To get that bitter taste out of our mouths before it does any real damage to our precious self-confidence. As soon as possible, if not sooner.
Therein lies the rub. You have to resist that urge. Painful as it may be, you want to carry your failures around with you every day of your life. Not as a badge of honor, although it’s tempting to do so, but for three reasons.
Failure is how you learn. Failure teaches you how to do things differently. How to do things better. Failing to learn from screw-ups only leads to bigger screw-ups. That’s the first reason. The second reason to never forget that you’ve failed and will fail again is that it reminds you of your humanity.
Awareness of your own vulnerability enhances your sense of empathy, humility, even humor. It helps you approach your job with genuine openness to the ideas and positions of others – not in spite of their differences, but because of them. Because you know that you might be wrong and they might be right.
There’s great value in knowing what you don’t know. Ironically, the longer I’m alive, the more I realize how little I know.
The third reason to never forget your failures is so you’ll always remember that you survived and are better for it. That way, you’ll have the courage to keep taking risks. Success may give you confidence, but failure gives you courage. Wisdom, too.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a lesson for the young. It can be, but not exclusively. It’s actually a lesson for the immature. And I’m afraid that applies to folks of all ages, even mature adults like you and me (emphasis on the italicized “mature”).
One more thing. People fetishize failure these days. Don’t. It’s not a goal. It’s not even a good thing. Failure causes all sorts of issues. It causes companies to fail, investors to lose their money, and employees to lose their jobs. But it is inevitable, so when it happens, it’s important to deal with it. This is how you deal with it: Never forget.
Image credit Chris Fane via Flickr