Failing at Failure

William Edward Hickson is credited with having penned an old and almost  forgotten proverb:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.

A proverb about failure, failure, failure and success.

A few years ago I heard there is a motto that floats around the business world:

Fail fast(er).

The idea in failing fast is that once you fail, you know the weaknesses of your team, product or strategy. With this kind of information at your finger tips you can re-tool, re-launch and re-brand in a shorter amount of time, then if you held off failure. If you fail fast the cycle of recreation can happen more often, maybe even several times over, before it would happen if you failed slow.

But what is it about failure that scares us?
Why are we not willing to fail?
Why does failure seems like the only option not available to us.

Failure, however you define it, exposes weakness:
Relational failures can expose weakness in communication.
Structural failures can expose weakness in design.
Marketing failures can expose weaknesses in ideas.

But the exposure of weaknesses is what is needed if you are passionate enough to try again. Failure is only helpful if you are not mark or defined by it. If we simply accept it as a part of life and part of the process of creating things, than failure is a ally not an enemy. This does not mean it does not hurt, demoralize or confuse, but failure does not have to be the end. It can actually provide a massive amount of information, inspiration and momentum to try again.

We only fail at failing if we fail to learn from failure.  If we just give it the “Old college try” and leave it at that, what have we learned? We have to stop seeing failure as loss, weakness or vulnerability. We have to stop comparing ourselves with those who try and succed, while we try, try, try and try again.

Failure is an option. And a good one at that.


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