Appreciating and Embracing Failure

Appreciating and Embracing Failure

Appreciating and Embracing Failure banner

Let’s take a moment to break down the loathsome and obnoxious statement that is, “Failure Is Not An Option”, shall we? Mmmkay, thanks.

For a multitude of reasons, which I’ll gladly share with you, I detest that statement.

1. Relativity of “failure” is never considered.

2. The phrase implies that failure is a terrible thing; something to be avoided.

3. Because failure is to be avoided, too many people refuse to try new things or take any risks.

4. We take failure personally; we allow it to define us.

And honestly, y’all, failure isn’t just an option, it’s inevitable.

Now before you get mad at me and tell me that I’m a Debbie Downer, allow me to further pontificate … errr … explain.

Failure is another term for “learning opportunity.” Truly.

We have been failing at various activities since we were young. The first time you hopped on a bicycle, did you stay up and ride off into the sunset? I’m going to guess that you didn’t. In fact, I’ll bet that you fell over. A few times, maybe. Perhaps you pitched a fit and swore that you’d never ride a bike again because bikes are stupid! And then a little while later, you got back on the bike and tried again and then eventually, you got the hang of it and never looked back.

The same thing happened when you were learning to read and write, or tie your shoes, or play a video game, or cook macaroni and cheese, or fold a fitted sheet. (Okay, folding a fitted sheet properly is the work of wizards … scratch that example.)

The point is, that when you were learning these new things, and failing, most likely your failures weren’t criticized, rather, your efforts were applauded and celebrated. You were encouraged to keep trying, to keep working, to get the hang of it. Somewhere along the line, we lost sight of these experiences; the encouragement to keep trying and the necessity to fail as a method of learning. We’ve convinced ourselves that failure is for stupid/inept/lazy people. Perhaps we have made failure such a scary idea that we couldn’t possibly allow ourselves to try something new lest we fail.

Somewhere out there, one or two of y’all are thinking the counterargument “Yeah, well, failure isn’t an option for, like, the Navy SEALs!”, or something similar. For most situations, this is a profoundly absurd analogy (because you’re going in to enemy territory to extract {target} on a daily?!? No…no you’re not), but OK, I’ll play along.

That is correct; failure for Navy SEALs involved in high-risk missions would be disastrous at very best. It is for this exact reason that SEALs participate in countless diverse training missions, during which, you can be absolutely assured that failure occurs and hard lessons are learned.

This is precisely the point of failure; to teach us to do/be/perform better. If you buy into the argument that failure isn’t an option, you’re simply validating the fear and insecurity that you hold dear to ensure that you never ever fail at anything (read: try) because, oh my goodness, bad terrible things will happen! So, essentially, you’re wallowing in the quicksand of your fears and insecurities. Ewww.

Please know that I’m not being a Pollyanna here. I thoroughly understand that failing at something/many things/anything totally sucks. Sometimes the failure makes you laugh (like that one time that I tried to make a soufflé), and sometimes it is so big and breathtaking you lose faith in yourself and others around you. Failure can be devastating, sure, but we have to find the lesson in the failure because the lesson is always bigger than just you and me.

What you have to remember is this: Your attempt at doing {the thing} failed, but that doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

The point of my blog (rant) is that we have to change the way we view and react to failure and potential failure.

As online students, you’re already taking a huge chance on yourself, which we, the staff and faculty, applaud. Being a nontraditional student connected to your classmates and instructors only through WiFi and discussion boards is a scary thing. But here you are, doing that thing.

Will you fail? Maybe. Perhaps you’ll fail at managing your time properly for a term. Perhaps you’ll fail at eating well or exercising regularly. Perhaps you’ll fail at balancing family/job/school/life/your part-time gig in that rock band. Does that mean you as a human are a failure? No … it means you need to learn why the failure occurred.

More important, however, is implementing what has been learned. When you fail, accept it, learn from it, get out of your quicksand, and adjust accordingly.

Most important, be grateful for the learning opportunities that are our failures. I mean … what kind of person would you be if you never failed, building character and resilience, in becoming an amazing online student?

It’s part of the process. Embrace it.

Namaste, y’all.

For more information on pursuing your degree at Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education, complete the “Request Info” form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].

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