Successful men usually snatch success from seeming failure. If they know there is such a word as defeat they will not admit it. They may be whipped, but they are not aware of it. That is why they succeed. ~ A.P. Gouthey
We often hear that “failure is not an option.” But what if we looked at failure as an option? As something to encourage because of the information it provides?
Last week, the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology, where I spend my weekdays, held its annual Teaching & Learning Symposium. It was great with over 400 faculty at the university sharing the interesting things they are doing in the classroom. Our keynote speaker for the luncheon was Dr. Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. He pointed out that students need a space to (gently) fail in order to glean important information and to motivate them to keep trying until they succeed. He shared the story of a high school student who was designing a car that ran on water. After numerous trials, he couldn’t get enough power for the car’s engine to work. But, the student was able to use his technology to run a barbecue grill (and started a company). The student figures it is just a matter of time before he can figure out how to make the car’s engine work, too. The student says he learns something new with each “failure.”
One thing I’ve noticed about modern women. We seem paralyzed by our “fear of failure” so we don’t venture too far out of our safe zone. Maybe it relates to the Imposter Syndrome where we are afraid that people will find out that we really don’t deserve our success or don’t know what we are doing (although we really do deserve our success and/or know what we are doing).
It is said that Thomas Edison conducted over 3,000 experiments in his effort to get a working electric light bulb. Note that he said experiments, not that he had failures. In his mind, it was all just part of the process toward success.
Here is the deal: If we aren’t failing, we aren’t taking risks and we won’t be able to succeed.