Saturday, June 30, 2012

Learn to Love Your Failures

Everyone should fail frequently in their lives.  The obvious question that you are now going to ask is  why on earth I would want you to fail and, more than that,  to have many failures. Have I completely lost all my senses and especially my ability to think reasonably well? No, I haven't.

How do you view failure? I'll bet that most of you think it's an indication that you are somehow inadequate or grossly unprepared to fulfill some task or acquire some skill. Do you really think that so? Take a minute now and look back on the things that you consider to be your personal failures. Examine the reason you may have “failed” and then think about it in a different way. As I like to say to people, turn it around and see it for what it may be rather than for what you believe it is. Is it really a failure? Were you really unable to do something, on prepared or in some way in adequate? Let me count the ways this may be faulty reasoning on your part or, perhaps, on someone else's part.

Allow me to give an example of something that is pretty straightforward. Do you swim? If you do, when you 1st began to learn to swim did you think like a rock or swim like fish? Most of us, I'll bet, sank like a rock and looked up at whoever was teaching us in a rather dejected way. Did that mean that you would never learn to swim? No, it just meant you needed more practice, you needed better instruction, and you needed to stick with the task. Okay, now you can swim, hopefully. If you can't, it might be a good thing for you to go back to and using some of the things I just mentioned, acquire that skill.

I used to say to my college students that there were no students who were incapable of learning; there were instructors who were incapable of teaching. I still believe that. I've sat in the seats now occupied by students and I have had incredible instructors who managed to get through to me and others who stumbled along because of their own in adequacy.   I believe a that there is almost nothing that you cannot learn if you receive the proper instruction and you put the proper amount of practice and motivation into it.   True,  there may be things in which you are not interested and where you will not put in the practice and you will not have the motivation.  Okay,  it doesn't interest you.

 But there are things that you will try and that you have tried in the past and you have decided that you have failed at them. A I can accept that and I think you should accept that too.   There are just some things  that you may not be  comfortable with, interested in, or you may not have the dexterity required, no matter how much practice and motivation you give it.   Yes, we all have certain limitations that are part of our internal wiring  and I am willing to accept that too and I think you should also.

Trying something a and not being able to accomplish it after you have really given it that old “college try" doesn't mean you're a failure.   The positive side of this is that you have  managed to eliminate something  that just isn't for you.   It actually frees you up to turn your efforts to things where you find you are capable and which interest.  In jobs, it's called "career exploration" and in life perhaps it should be called "life exploration" where you find the person that's right for you, the environment, the lifestyle, whatever.  But it's not failure as has so often been said about so many things.  Give yourself credit and don't permit people to be so cavalier with the labeling of you that some are incredibly capable of doing and who drip in callousness.

Open your mind to possibilities, keeping in mind to be sufficiently pragmatic about your choices and not emulating the actions of the proverbial grasshopper who plays all summer and then starves in the winter because he didn't put anything away.  Life offers choices and you need to see them when they are there and what they may portend for you in the future.  They may not always be so evident, but keep your mind's eye out for them and you'll begin to see them.