How To Succeed in Failing

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” ~ Confucius 

This post is inspired by a recent New York Times piece on learning to fail. Unfortunately, the column is behind a paywall, but if you’re a NYT subscriber, check out Jancee Dunn’s essay “Want to thrive? First, learn to fail” in the paper’s wellness newsletter.

Failure Subculture

There seems to be a entire subculture around the value of failure. Google “failure quotes” and you’ll get over 1.4 billion results. Google “books on failure,” and the hits are in excess of 700 million

So there are more than a few references to failure on the internet. This isn’t unexpected, as the tech sector seems to be a place where failure can be a valued attribute — especially in the start-up realm.

Most of us, though, fear failure, try to avoid it at all costs, and are embarrassed when we stumble. 

Success in Failure

Jancee Dunn cites Professor Amy Edmondson of the Harvard Business School, who explores how to build healthy relationships with our mistakes.  Edmonson touches on how to process and learn from those misteps:

Reframe. Put your failures into contex as necessary and as meaningful experiences. Remind yourself about the initial goal and determine what actually happened.

Pivot. Focus on what to do next to move forward. What possibilities can come from this mistake?

Share your failure. Sharing our mistakes with others normalizes failure and can create more honest relationships.

All of us fail at some point. Some failures are mere stumbles, others can be fairly catastrophic. Most fall somewhere in between. It’s how we handle our failures that define us. 

As you stumble and fall, can you use Edmonson’s points to help you rise again? 

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