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Failure is Learning (on Steroids)

We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes - understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success. - Arianna Huffington

Failure is a funny thing (if you think about it).

Not in the 'ha-ha' sense, but in the 'oh-right-that’s-how-life-works' sense.

No, it’s not fun to miss the mark on something.

It’s especially not fun when you miss the mark and other people notice.

Cue shame and relentless T.H.O.T.s.

We may have such harsh negative reactions to this feeling of screwing up because, from an evolutionarily biology perspective, we’re hard-wired to go with the tribe. Any deviation, it was believed in ancient times, meant exile and certain death.

(How odd is it, then, that shame of someone being cast out is so powerful that it has reverberated down through the generations to us)

But now that we know that going against the tribe does not mean certain death, we can take a far healthier view of success.

By taking a healthier look of failure.

Because, in essence, failure is learning.

Because, when we fail, we learn three things:

  1. We learn more about ourselves. When I was about eight, and I was learning how to ride my pink two-wheeler, I felt ready to race down to the bottom of the hill where our beige New Jersey condo was. "Are you sure you know how to brake?" my mom wondered. "Yeah," I replied, exasperated at the notion of why she'd ask that. Turns out, I wasn't as good as I had thought. After careening down the hill, I let the granite curb serve as most of the brake, causing me to fly into the grass. Although my mom was panicked, I was okay (not even a scrape). But what I learned is that while confidence is fine, it's usually best to know what you're doing ahead of time.

  2. We learn more about other people. My mom loved me to bits and pieces, but it turns out that she trusted me (and had a really high risk tolerance when it came to me trying new things). That remained consistent for the rest of my life.

  3. We *might* learn more about the world around us. Turns out that granite curbs shouldn't be used for brakes (and that remained consistent for the rest of my life). I took that knowledge and used it elsewhere in my life. But that was a granite curb; when taking failures pertaining to interactions with people, it can be a mixed big. Just because Person X had a bad reaction to Thing Y doesn't mean that Person B will (unless of course Thing Y is something objectively horrible like identity theft, hangnails, or the Curlz MT font). People can be weird, so it's best to take them on a case-by-case basis.

Failure is merely unexpected learning. It can hurt; it can be uncomfortable; and, yes, it feels like learning on steroids because of these two things.

But it's a necessary part of life. It can give us a deeper understanding of life (or, at least, fodder for a bartender).

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