Let’s talk about failing. Think about the last time you really hit the dirt, so to speak. You put in a good effort, but fell short. You tried, but trying wasn’t enough. You reached, but couldn’t quite get your fingers on that upper shelf. You failed, maybe hard.
What did you do?
We’re all animals. Failure hurts, and it’s natural for animals to spend time licking their wounds when they get hurt. But humans are also much more than animals. Humans have the capacity to reflect on failure and grow from it. Is that how you handled it? Or did you take the animal route — growl a bit and not internalize the lesson the failure offered to teach you?
Now, there’s a range of failures out there. We can fail in talking with our spouse, saying something we didn’t mean or that we didn’t put into the right words. We can fail professionally, trying for a promotion or new job, only to get denied. Contractors can fail on the jobsite, which can lead to lost time or even injuries. The current that runs through all of these scenarios is that the situation called for something different than we brought.
Maybe we spoke our mind to our spouse, when the situation demanded listening. Maybe we had some of the skills for the promotion or new job, but needed more. Maybe we picked the wrong tool or tactic for the job at hand, and it cost us time or money. In each of these situations, a reminder that we needed a different approach masked itself as failure.
What’s the solution? The easy thing is to take the animal route. You get stung by failure and lick your wounds, but don’t learn the lesson. You defensively keep using the same approach but, like a dumb animal, expect different results. What’s that old saying about the definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.
Well, it’s not going to happen.
Smarter animals look at failure and see what the situation demands we bring next time in order to succeed. It’s not always easy to see clearly where we fell short. But we can learn to shut up and listen when that’s what our spouse needs. We can get the training that will ready us for the next job or promotion. We can think twice about the project at hand, remember what didn’t work last time, and then pick a better tool or tactic.
I’m in southeast Michigan, where Henry Ford is pretty much a minor deity. He once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Ford’s legacy lives on more than a century after he founded his eponymous company, so he might have been onto something.
I’ll leave readers with a parting thought, one somewhat related to the topic of failure. I read this quote on social media recently, and it stuck with me: Those aren’t obstacles in your way; the obstacles are the way.
What do you think? How did you learn and move on from your most recent failure? What advice do you have for people who get stuck, not seeing the lessons in front of them? Share your thoughts. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.