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F is for Fail

F is for Fail
This entry is part 6 of 27 in the series A to Z

You need to fail to learn.

Yes, of course, you can learn without failing, but to really engrain it in your mind, your memory, in your system, you need to fail. You need to see what went wrong, what didn’t work so well, then think about what you can do better. By the way, slackers, this doesn’t mean you will learn by failing and quitting, it means failing and then trying, trying again until you succeed.

Your eventual success will be all the sweeter–not to mention the better–when you succeed after you fail.

I was at my son’s karate practice the other day and I was talking with another dad about the upcoming tournament. “I really hope my son gets his butt kicked,” the other father said. I wasn’t sure quite what to say to that so in good form, I said nothing. “You see, he’s so cocky, he thinks he’s so good, he thinks it’s all so easy. He needs to learn that to get better, he needs to lose once in a while. Then when he wins, he’ll be even better. He’ll also appreciate the win more.” Wow, didn’t know dad thought so thoroughly about little Johnny’s karate tournament, but good on you, mate!

F is for Fall

I don’t fall enough when skiing. I’m a relatively new skier, just the past five years since we started with the kids. I’m a solid “blue run” skier, I can handle a not-too-mogul-y black, but I am careful and I probably won’t terribly enjoy it. But I’m not really pushing myself, I don’t fall enough, because I don’t push myself very hard when skiing. It’s not a fear of failing as much as it is a comfort with the status quo. I’m OK with being a blue, I don’t really need to get to black. I’d like to do a few things better, but I’m not in a huge hurry. I’m cruising. I’m OK with it. But I’m not improving much. Yes, I improve because we ski often, but gradually. At some point, I suppose olympians, you taper off and your rate of improvement flattens. But I’m not sure I’m at the level, OK, fine, I know I’m not at the level where I should be tapering off. But who decides that? Let’s get back to writing. With writing, you don’t break bones.

To fail, you need to do. To improve, you need to fail. But you first have to do.

To fail, you need to do. To improve, you need to fail. But you first have to do.

With writing, I can take more risks. What do I have to lose? If I’m writing on assignment, the editors can always say that it needs work. That was the risk I took, the risk of failure, the failure being I need to work on it more. If it were a book, the publisher could say that it needs work, that I need to change this or that or lots of this and tons of that. That could be considered failing. That would be OK. If I lost the book deal because of it, that would be failing. But then I would have learned something too: I do it their way (if they’re the ones writing the checks) or I do it my way and fend for myself when it comes to check writing.

Let’s take one more example. I’m working on a product. I’m working on a WordPress class/workshop/tutorial site. I’ll have loads of help videos, documents, walk-throughs, how to screencasts, to walk even the most technophobic through using their WordPress site. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but I haven’t done it. I’m not terribly sure why as there is only upside. I have happier clients, my clients are more informed, empowered and happier. Win win. So why haven’t I done this? It’s usually because I’m too busy–with client work. But I’ve managed to do quite a few other things even though I’m so busy with client work. So that’s no excuse. I think it’s at least in part because I’m afraid to fail. I want it to be perfect, I want it to be the best thing out there. But it needs to exist. I can’t improve on the second version when the first version doesn’t exist. In fact, I need the first version to fail to improve on the second version because if the first version is “good enough” then I won’t see the need to drastically improve it.

You need to fail to learn. Click to Tweet!

So you need to fail to learn. You need to fail to improve. But you need to create, produce, write, make, build, you need to do before you can fail. If you don’t begin, if you don’t have something to improve on, something to fail with, then there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. Do, fail, learn, improve.

Series Navigation<< E is for EfficientG is for Generosity >>

About The Author

Bradley

I don't like to call them excuses. They're priorities. With a handful of exceptions, we usually have a choice in our actions. They just need to be prioritized.

4 Comments

  1. jwrichardson

    Agreed. I’ve often said that I’ve learned far more from my failures than I have my successes.

    Even so, do I have to learn so often–and so much?!?

    Best,
    Joe
    G: Gold’s Plated

    Reply
    • Bradley

      Hi Joe,

      Your comment was in the spam for some reason.

      But we do learn so much from failures. There must be some solid reasons why: e.g. we pay more attention when we fail, that sort of thing. I’m sure there’s a good list somewhere. So why couldn’t we take that list and use it even when we succeed?

      Reply
  2. Andrea @ Maybe It's Just Me

    Love the blog title (it’s what drew me in on my a-z wandering) and love the line under it! Yes, I must produce something instead of worrying that it will fail…it can’t succeed or fail if I don’t do it!

    Reply
    • Bradley

      Thanks, Andrea! It’s so easy to hold back and wait for perfection. But that perfection will never come without at least getting started.

      Reply

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