Beth's Posts, Experiences, Observations

Failure. Or Is It Learning?

chess failure

How many times have you thought of the situations where you’ve failed? More often than you think of your successes? I’m guessing you think about failure more frequently than you want.

When you think of an action or possible action as a failure, you limit your ability to use the experience as learning.

It’s also a whole lot easier to learn from an experience if you don’t label it as ‘failure.’ You can skip all those awful feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or worse, the sense you’ve let yourself or someone else down. If you choose to view the experience as a lesson, then incorporate it into your toolkit as a shiny new tool.

I’ve already suggested you eliminate the words ‘perfection’ and ‘impossible’ from your vocabulary. Why not add ‘failure’ too?

Lessons are sometimes hard to learn whether they are planned or not. Your view of yourself will benefit from thinking of a difficult situation as learning instead of failure.

Even if I wanted to track all the failed decisions we made as we built our software company, it would be a useless exercise. What would be the point? To beat myself up? To think less of Peter?

I tell people we made good decisions 51% of the time and the rest, 49%, could have been made better. Judging by those percentages, we barely made half of them correctly, and yet we sold our software company, made money and all our employees retained their jobs. How is that not a success? It’s a success because we defined it as a success and not a failure.

There is so much we’ve learned, albeit some of it was pretty hard, but we’ve benefitted from all those ‘less than better decisions.’ If you talk to any entrepreneur who has built something from nothing and exited in some fashion, they will tell you how much they learned from their failures.

The good decisions don’t give you as much perspective. They don’t force you to look at the situation differently or question assumptions you’re making as part of a decision. If you make a choice and things work out as you anticipated, you usually don’t take the time to analyze what worked. If you make a decision that doesn’t work as you expected, then you are forced to go back and analyze everything leading up to making that choice.

Maybe a better way to think of ‘failure’ is to see it as a critical element of success. Maybe ‘failure’ can be replaced in your thoughts as ‘an important step in ‘becoming my best me?’ It would incorporate the learning aspect of ‘failure,’ and it would also become an integral part of the journey to ‘becoming a better me.’

That’s a much better way to look at failure, but only if you want to keep it in your vocabulary!

2 thoughts on “Failure. Or Is It Learning?

  1. Yes, yes! I love how you provided new words to replace that “F” (failure) word! Nearly every day, in fact, I take “important steps that help me to become the best me!” I remind myself that yesterday is no longer real, just something I perceive and shape with my own thoughts. And, as you remind me, I can choose my thoughts.

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