A little more about failure.
I think about failure almost as much as I think about success.
Gurus who talk about mindset probably think that’s the wrong approach, but I’m not quite sure it is. For me, thinking deeply about failure is just as important as thinking deeply about success.
I punched out a piece yesterday about pieces of “good” startup advice that aren’t all that good. One of those was that “failure is good.” As I was writing about that piece of advice, I knew that there was more to think about.
Let’s think a little more about failure.
We rarely learn anything incredibly beneficial about failure.
People often say that we learn from our failures. I don’t think they’re completely right, and I think the saying exists more to comfort us than it is to make us better.
Think about it: we don’t learn much from failure unless we get to try the exact same thing over.
The best example of this is in sports, where repetition is so important in mastering a particular skill, like throwing a ball. When we learn to throw a ball, we start by aiming at a target that’s standing still. When we miss the target—fail—then we get to aim at the same target again with the same throwing motion.
In that case there’s a very clear result, it’s obvious when we fail, and we get to work on the one motion that will eventually lead to the result we want.
But that’s not how most failure works.
Most failure is a unique experience.
Here’s what I mean.
When we fail at something, we don’t usually get to face the exact same situation again by using the exact same motion.
Imagine that you lose a client. (This is something I don’t even have to use my imagination to feel!)
What lost you that client won’t always be the same reason why you lose another client. You could’ve failed one way with one client, and another way with another. So you can’t change one thing and expect a completely different result. There are too many variables.
Because we’re not failing the same way, and because we can’t fix the situation with the exact same response, then that means we can only make a guess at what the real solution was.
We can only assume that we learned the right lesson.
And you know what they say about assumptions.
How we actually learn from failure.
The aspect of failure that teaches us the most is the aftermath.
Falling down might feel the same even if it didn’t happen in the same way. But the getup takes common steps.
No matter how you fall, you’ll always have to get up. And you’ll never run out of chances to get back up.
That’s where the real learning takes place.
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Photo: Flickr/Mr. Connor