“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
It takes a lot of internal strength to fail, or as Edison has shown above, perhaps a distorted view on the very definition of failure. My point is that failure is not always easy to come to terms with. However, if history as shown us anything, it is that the world’s greatest failures are often also the world’s greatest successes.
I started a new job two weeks ago. In my first week, I was given a task that I felt was completely misaligned with my skillset and frankly, a rather foolish thing to have me doing. I’m not sure if I was given the task because my supervisor lacked information on my capabilities, if they had a pressing need for the task’s completion or if they simply wanted to test me out of my depth. Either way… I failed at the task, however, I didn’t fail in the right way.
Yes, there are most definitely different ways to fail.
If in approaching a task, you are able to keep an open mind and accept the distinct possibility of failure, you will mentally document each step and pay closer attention to your actions so that upon your blunder’s post-mortem, you can see where you went wrong. If however you act as I did and charge into the problem like a western gun-slinger with a penchant for brushes with death, you will not maintain the state of mind necessary to monitor your shortcomings.
This isn’t to say that we should enter new territory with the expectation of failure, however, I believe that we should always approach the unknown accepting the possibility of failure. By doing so, we remove so much of the apprehension and fear associated with failing. We actually think through what it would mean to fail and are able to mitigate the risks of failure or even realize that the consequences of failing may not be that great.
It’s a challenging concept to accept but failure is not always bad. As Edison’s quick turn of words in response to a nosey New York Times reporter reminds us, failure is an essential element of success. Accepting failure allows for risk. Risk allows for progression, innovation and the unexpected… all things that ultimately lead to breakthrough success.
You may be wondering what happened to my first week at work. As I mentioned, I failed the wrong way by the end of my first week as I didn’t accept the possibility of failure and didn’t learn anything. Ok, I’m lying a little. I did learn one important thing that I carried into my second week of the task which has drastically improved my work approach, and outcome:
Failure is always an option.