The Necessity of Failure: Learn to Love It

Photo by Jennifer Bedoya on Unsplash

Is failure necessary? Yes.

Does it suck? Would you be surprised if I told you it didn’t have to?

Growing up playing sports, I quickly noticed that some of the best athletes were the ones who hated losing the most, who would sulk and even cry after losing. There’s a limit to how effective this is, however — it might work when you’re good at something and lose occasionally, as you motivate yourself to sharpen your skills and prevent the loss in the future.

But when you’re faced with the broad realm of life and the modern workplace, where the average person changes jobs 12 times, failure won’t be a chance occurrence – in fact it will mean you’re on the right track.

Failure as Progress

Learn to love failure. Weird, right? Not only is failure necessary, you have to seek it out. Why? Because if you’re failing (while striving to succeed) that means the following:

  1. You’re doing something that’s not easy (otherwise, you wouldn’t fail).
  2. You’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
  3. You’re improving yourself.
  4. You’re learning.

We don’t learn as well from success (at least, I don’t). Failure offers us the chance for reflection, analysis, and iteration. In that sense, failure is a gift. It means you’re iterating, trying something new, learning a new skill. You need to learn to love it.

Failing Well

While failure is necessary, there are better ways to fail than others. Here are some strategies to ensure that you’re benefiting the most from your effort and failure:

  1. Set SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Timebound. Proper goal setting upfront will let us know when we’ve made or missed them, allowing us to fail and iterate better.
  2. Keep a Goal Log and Reflect on Failure – we have a tendency to avoid failure – keeping a goal log will force you to measure your success and come to terms with your progress
  3. Share your Goals and Failures with Others – Many folks are paranoid about failure because they think other people will judge them for it. By having a dialogue with a trusted friend on your recent failures, you’ll get another perspective on how you can improve. As an added bonus, they’ll probably put their guard down and share some of their failures as well, and you’ll have a better friendship. If they don’t, then they’re not that good of a friend.
  4. Always Have More Than One Goal Going – So you failed at one goal, so what? You’re on track to nail two more this week. It’s important to have several projects going at once because you never want to become solely dependent on the success of one thing. If you have multiple sticks in the fire, you’re not as worried if one of them fails to light.

Failure is a necessary part of life – of living well. You cannot live a life more aligned with your values without failing along the way – it’s impossible. By recognizing the necessity of failure and developing strategies of harnessing its power, we’re better equipped to live analytically.

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