We have often pointed out that it’s almost impossible to have innovation without some tolerance for failure. But what if failure is punished? What if failure is not an option? Do you still have to fail? Of course not. Either way, tolerating or avoiding failure, there will be consequences. So maybe it’s just about consciously choosing which downside is acceptable. Our buddy Dirk Baxter has an interesting and dare we say -- irreverent take -- on all of this failure stuff. We think you’ll enjoy it:
DIRK BAXTER, PhD, SPHR
Senior Talent Strategist
I want to Fail
“Most of life is on-the-job training. Some of the most important things can only be learned in the process of doing them. You do something and you get feedback — about what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t do anything for fear of doing it wrong, poorly, or badly, you never get any feedback, and therefore you never get to improve.”
Jack Canfield “The Success Principles”
There are many books written about winners. People who strive and overcome obstacles, try new things and persist in the face of multiple failures. We put visionaries such as Ford, Edison, Salk on pedestals and celebrate their successes. It is easy to be curious on “why” they were successful. It is easy to celebrate those accomplishments, but taking a look at the whole picture also includes a view into multiple failures and many copies of the t-shirt “been there, done that”.
But what if failing is not for you? What if falling short in a quest is too painful to consider? Well the good news is you can guard yourself against this exposure. Here are some simple tactics you can use so you are less prone to trying something you aren’t good at. Of course the downside is that you will likely not much move much beyond where you are now. To save you effort and possible embarrassment, consider these on your path towards a fail-free life.
There is a reason Thomas Edison had more than 1000 different light bulb designs before he found success. Just think of the fun he could have had if he knocked off at 5 every day and spent time with his family! With success there is also the severe opportunity cost of not being able to sit on the couch and play Halo II. As a general rule, it is hard work to become exceptional at something. Even if you just want to be a great husband it helps a lot to know that’s what you’re trying to do. Since it’s rare that anyone “accidently” becomes a superstar you need a plan and tenacity. Again, that takes time away from important relaxation moments and reading the news on the internet.
Ron White – comedian – “My grandfather used to say, ‘That boy's got a lot of quit in him.’”
Stick with the herd
There is a reason most people don’t try new things – life is tough! Why make it tougher? Besides starting a new company and risking your retirement you may even get eaten. Jedediah Smith, the famous mountain man, didn’t listen to this advice. It turns out that to discover the Rocky mountain passes and new lands beyond the Mississippi, he also had to fight grizzly bears. When Jeff Bezos floated the idea of Amazon by his boss, his boss thought it was a great idea “but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job.”
I should have stayed in Ohio……
Don’t accept feedback
Sticking up for yourself when a peer or manager wants you to do things differently will allow you to look strong. They will appreciate your appreciation for the status quo.
I am not open to learning new tricks….
Don’t show weakness
When picking a mentor, often the scariest mentor is the one you learn the most from. Article However, the downside of learning is telling someone that you aren’t the best at something. Asking for help, asking for advice exposes you. You know who doesn’t need or seek any advice? That’s right, cats. Mentor, I’m sure you don’t need one!
I am way too comfortable in my own skin….
With the tactics outlined above, you will find that you will suffer from fewer failures. Keep buying lottery tickets and waiting for the world to beat a path to your door. In the meantime, I am going to search for those opportunities where I can try new skills, and not always succeed. I hope you join me.
~ Terry Paulson