Bennis Inc. | Failing Forward: Why It’s Important to Fail Often
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Failing Forward: Why It’s Important to Fail Often

Failing Forward Why It’s Important to Fail OftenFailing is a necessary part of life. I’ll refrain from inserting too many cheesy “fail” quotes because I’m sure you’ve seen most of them already, but they do carry truth. Instead, I will say that I fail often and in a variety of ways. Sometimes my failures are so silly they make me roll my eyes and giggle. Sometimes my failures are so frustrating that they bring me to tears. Both types are equally as important. Why? Because failing is a sure indication that some pretty cool things are happening in our lives.

To help you come to this same realization – that failing often is a good thing – I may need to paint a clearer picture. We should not label failing as “failure” so long as we learn to fail forward, to get stronger, smarter and more courageous as a result. Here are six reasons why, after allowing yourself a brief pity party, you should take a deep breath and embrace failing with gratitude.

  1. You are challenging yourself

We don’t often fail at things that are simple, easy or common. No, we fail at things that require taking a leap, stretching our limits and coming out of our comfort zone. These are all good things (regardless of the outcome)! If you’re not failing often, you’re not pushing yourself often. I’d much rather know that I’m pushing my own limits – and every so slowly moving them – than to never fail the rest of my life.

  1. You are learning how to deal (gracefully) with disappointment

Learning how to deal with disappointment is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life. We’re moving toward a society that is so politically correct and focused on being “fair” that we’re creating a world of wimps. I said it. It’s important that we learn early and often the burn of disappointment from failing. It hurts, it sucks and it sticks around for a while. I still feel the discomfort of failing, but it no longer brings me to my knees as it used to. By failing often I have learned, time and time again, how to quickly regain my composure, fight back my tears and look for the bright side of things.

  1. You are growing tougher skin

The more you fail, the more resilient you become at brushing off the feeling of failure. In looking back at my childhood, there were always one or two kids that just seemed to have terrible luck. They couldn’t catch a break in school, sports or social circles. But I remember these kids as being some of the most pleasant people, always smiling and even learning to laugh at themselves. They grew tougher skin early in life and I’m slowly catching up. Things I would once deem as “catastrophic failures” are now merely a bump or two in the road. I’m becoming more resilient as a result of failing often.

  1. You are identifying your weaknesses

If failing is good for nothing else, it exposes our weaknesses. This exposure can feel raw or we can choose to see it as an opportunity to work on these weaknesses so that they don’t continue to trip us up in the future. For people who never fail (and I don’t believe they exist), they live their life thinking they’re without flaws and then when something does go wrong it totally catches them off guard. Failing allows us to sharpen our swords each and every time, so we never fail in the same way twice.

  1. You are gaining experience

Whatever steps you took that led to failing were still steps of progress that helped you to gain experience. Maybe you didn’t win that race, but all those training miles that led you to that big moment are yours to keep. You’re stronger and better prepared to take on the challenge again in the future. The same applies for so many other aspects of life. While you didn’t win the “prize,” all the time and effort you put into getting to that point are pretty good consolations.

  1. You are avoiding something that simply wasn’t meant to be

For those who believe in fate (and I do), I appreciate the fact that failing means I’ve successfully avoided something that wasn’t meant to be. If we wished to never fail again, we would likely stumble into situations that prove to be more harm than good. In my career, failing by not winning a client or job has almost always been a blessing in disguise. Either they were a bad fit or another, bigger client came along shortly after that I would have had to turn down had I won that original client. We can apply this theory to relationships, travel, big purchases and more. Be happy that failing is life’s way of protecting you from a far worse fate.

How have you failed recently and how did you choose to make the best of situation? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com