Embracing Failure

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“The unexamined life is not worth living,” says Socrates. Although brutal, this dictum yields an important lesson: How can we better ourselves without reflecting on our thoughts and past actions?

In any situation that didn’t turn out the way I expected, whether an interaction with a coworker turned sour or a project failed, I asked myself — what did I do to contribute to such an outcome and what could I have done differently?

Being able to reflect upon yourself and your own actions gives you the power to change your behavior to achieve the results you desire. I can’t control my coworkers’ behavior, but I can control mine. I can’t force success on a project, but I can learn from my mistakes and failures.

With this kind of mentality, one can fully embrace failure. Failing is how we learn. No child is born knowing how to walk perfectly. They stumble and fall until they learn and adapt their behavior.

It is incredibly painful to fail. Admitting your failure in public is even more excruciating. The worst phrase to use in a workplace is “it’s not my fault,” and then proceed to explain how it isn’t your fault. Not only have you damaged the relationship between yourself and the coworker that you blamed the results on, but you’ve robbed yourself of the opportunity to examine your own actions and learn from your mistakes.

Our failures and our mistakes propel us forward, not our successes. Behind every success and accomplishment are strewn dead bodies of ideas and projects that never made it. But all of those failures led to that one accomplishment.

It is arguable that without Steve Jobs’ mistakes and subsequent removal from the company he helped found, Apple wouldn’t be what it is today. In fact, during his hiatus from Apple, Steve Jobs made a critical investment by buying Pixar from George Lucas. Both men were innovators in their industries, and their failures helped them make crucial decisions to advance their ideas.

Our mistakes hone and sharpen our mind and skills. Our mistakes are the means to our success. Our mistakes make us better people. We must be willing to examine our thoughts and actions in order to learn from them and adapt our behavior for success.

-by Joseph Hunt