*This post is from David’s book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer”
One great failure in my life was not inventing a time machine to go back and correct the many dumb mistakes I’ve made over the years. Despite my best searching, I couldn’t locate a cheap Deloren, nor an authentic English phone booth, let alone any retro-fitted so as to transport me through the time/space continuum. Seriously? What’s up with that?
And while my face remains tainted with egg from oh-so-many past embarrassing failures, I have to wonder if this current reality is really such a bad thing? Because as my botched time-travelling efforts proved, if I never failed at things, then how would I have ever learned the important lessons that came from these same failures? I couldn’t have; and in hindsight, that wouldn’t have been a good thing.
Interestingly, the most successful people don’t view failure as negative, wrong, or as a judgement on their abilities or character. In fact, whenever things don’t go right the first time they rarely feel embarrassment or shame, but rather view it as part of the learning curve, or better; some see it as a sign that they are on the right track to finding out what WILL work in their favour.
Successful people believe that a “failure” isn’t a result, but rather feedback on what NOT to do – for confirmation of this just ask anyone who’s ever slammed a finger in a car door. If you don’t know anyone, try it yourself and you’ll quickly understand the lesson here.
In fact, our so-called “failures” are what help us discover our strengths and weaknesses in whatever it is we are doing, and provide clues so for us to decide whether we should stop, go on, or give up altogether. So in fact, “failure” can be a very good thing.
So instead of allowing our “failures” to take control of us, instead we should take control of them by (metaphorically) punching them in their big, fat faces to show them who’s in charge! Take public speaking for example.
Ask any group of adults for a volunteer to give a short speech and most will decry, “I can’t! I’m a terrible public speaker!” and not even try… Why is this?
It’s because the lone time they spoke in public (perhaps a high school debate?) they were self-conscious and nervous and embarrassed and felt stupid and forgot the words and totally sucked and promised in that moment they’d never subject themselves to this horror again! Sounds like an epic failure, right?
Actually, for a first time effort I’d call it a smashing success, and here’s why: Anyone who tackles public speaking feels the same unpleasant thoughts, feelings and emotions that the orator experienced, because these are all part of learning public speaking, and everyone who tries, feels them. And I mean everyone.
As uncomfortable as giving a talk may have felt, the experience provided first-timers with important feedback for their next time at the podium; a next time that will only exist if they continue to learn from their “failures” and keep going.
By returning to the podium (or the debate stage, or P.T.A. meeting, or work sponsored “lunch and learn”, etc.) these people are taking control by using the feedback they get for future growth purposes. Put another way, they are “punching failure in the face”!
And to be clear, extensive feedback sometimes says things like, “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get this!” When does, we should consider what it’s telling us. As a guy who failed Grade Ten math four times* I get this.
Because rather than having failed Grade Ten math four times, instead I got extensive feedback suggesting my future wasn’t in accounting. Hence I became an entrepreneur who hires accountants to do my math for me. Problem solved.
Whenever failure shows up – and it will – we all have a choice. We can turn around and run away vowing to never put ourselves in that position again, or we can punch it right in its big fat, ugly face by learning the lessons it offers for the next time.
The more often we take the latter route, the quicker we’ll see failure for what it really is: Valuable feedback to help us succeed in what we are doing, no time machine required.
CALL TO ACTION:
- Whenever something doesn’t work out, ask yourself, “What are the lessons here?”
- Armed with this new knowledge, try your task again
- Repeat until you succeed!
* In case you were wondering: (1) Grade Ten (2) Summer School (3) Grade Eleven (4) Grade Twelve… I know, right?
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 100,000 times, and his first book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca. and this post is from it.
David lives in Victoria B.C. where he spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia, or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.