Fail Better

Ever tried. Ever failed.

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.” 

 ― Samuel Beckett

 

THE GOOD LIFE. Think about what this means specifically to you. After all, the good life is what we are all striving for in our careers and personal life? Right?

A stimulating and rewarding career? A warm and welcoming community of family and friends? Helping others in need? Not having to wake up early on Saturday?

Most of us are on the good life path, or at least near it. Most of us live in a world where we start each morning having the best intentions in mind, and yet, failure and mistakes happen. We think we have our best interest and the interests of others in mind when we make a poor leadership decision, when we have bad timing giving a friend advice, and when we are learning how to do something new. It is only later when we recognize we made a mistake. Sometimes I realize it as the words are falling out of my mouth. I wish I could catch the words in the air and cram them back down my throat, but the damage has already been done. I start feeling really terrible, and then I think: where would we be without our mistakes?

Failure is a great teacher. Every mentor I have had has talked with me about the importance of failure. Every influential book I have read has spoken to the importance of not being afraid to fail, and working through and recovering from mistakes. Falling short teaches us that we need to push a little harder and stretch our reach a little farther. Mistakes and failure teach us how to become masters. Simply put, failure is a necessary part of becoming a master at anything.

So then, could the good life be about the possibility of failure, the experience of failure, the response to failure, and ultimately, the success in an area where you once failed?

Although failure may be a necessary part of living the good life, the word failure can make us cringe up fear or prompt bad memories of events in the past. These feelings, as well as other negative influences, can hinder our ability to jump back from an error. Feel free to mentally change the world "failure" to "feedback" in this post if it better suits you. The word "feedback" is a good word for failure because we change our behavior, usually for the better, based on the responses we get from the world around us. 

Here are a few ways to help you respond to failure better so you can quickly bounce back stronger.

 

Have a Growth Mindset

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” ― Carol S. Dweck,

 

The growth mindset is a term coined by Carol S. Dweck in her book Mindset. A growth mindset is someone who believes they can learn from their experiences and improve their natural talent. This is opposed to someone who has a fixed mindsetA person with a fixed mindset is someone who believes that their ability comes from the role of the dice at birth and it is fixed in stone, so there is little (or nothing) they can do to improve. When it comes to damage control and recovering from a mistake, it is imperative that you have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset allows you to recognize that a mistake or failure is a lesson. You did not make a mistake because you are a bad person - many others have made the same errors you have. The key to failure is not the action of failing itself, it is how we respond to that action. If our response to failure isn’t to learn how to do something better, we will enter a downward spiral of doubt and lack of confidence in skills that have not been developed yet (and should). Instead of being eager to approach new situations with an open mind, we will avoid them and speak poorly of change. Check-in with yourself and periodically ask am I making this choice because I am avoiding the possibility of failure or because I truly believe it is in my best interest?

 

Have a Social Safety Net

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.  ― Dr. Seuss

 

Form lasting relationships. It’s easy to rack up a lot of acquaintances if you work for a large company, are active in your community, travel, or have a busy social life. While these can all be great experiences, it is also key to have a close group of pals (or karass) you interact with on a regular basis, usually weekly or biweekly. This group should include peers in your field, non-industry related friends, a mentor, and a mentee. Others can be added to the mix as well, such as spiritual leaders and family members. What you are doing is creating a community to regularly interact with who supports you as a person and holds the same (or similar) values you do. Or, if they don’t hold the same values, they are able to offer a great sounding board for your own. This is meant to be a community who you trust and respect, and they trust and respect you.

Life is a series of mountains we climb up and rappel down. It is about having the strength and passion to climb to heights we can’t see at the base of the mountain and the courage to step backwards off a cliff with only a helmet on our head and a rope in our hands. Your community will help you through this. They will offer support and encouragement when needed. They will be the ones cheering you up the mountain, and the ones with outstretched arms beneath you if your rope starts to spin or breaks.

 

Have A Financial Safety Net

“We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.” ― Dave Ramsey,

 

Sometimes failure comes in the form of economic hardship. One day you have a job with a company you think is your life-long career employer, and the next day your whole team has been let go. Other times you are hit with a speeding ticket, a broken household appliance, or a medical bill.

Good financial planning includes an emergency fund. This will give you flexibility and allow you to regain financial control when an unexpected financial expense creeps into your life. Don’t let poor financial planning become a stressor when you are trying to bounce back from an inconvenient event. Make sure to provide yourself with stability, and set aside money each month from your paycheck specifically for these occurrences.

 

Remember: There is greatness inside of everyone. With the support of our communities, a growth mindset, and smart financial planning, we will be able to grow into our strengths and be the best we can be. Everyone, no matter how many times they have failed, has something they can teach you- listen closely and you will be amazed at what you will learn.

 

 

Andrew J. Wilt
SEI Junior Consultant 
Apprenticeship Program 
andrew.wilt@sustainableevolution.com