Redefine Failure

We’ve been conditioned from childhood that failure is unacceptable. You were allowed to get A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s, but F’s—Failures—were unacceptable. You’d have to repeat the course or even the entire grade if you received an “F”. It’s the same all through college. Get a low grade, receive a big fat reminder of your failure in your report card.

Failing to meet organizational objectives can result in job loss. Failing to pay a toll bill can result in large financial penalties. Failing to shower results in losing your chance at a romantic relationship.

Failure is a caution cone we avoid for the rest of our lives and for good reason. We don’t want the consequences of failure so we avoid doing things that push our limits. We avoid uncertainty because uncertainty means we can fail and failing is bad.

I propose we look at it a little different. In the creative world—and in the skill-building world as a whole—failure is the cost of admission. It is a necessary part of growing into the person you want to become. You want to ride a bike? You need to fail at riding a bike until your cerebellum learns all the ways not to ride a bike. You want to learn a new language? You need to fumble your way through real conversations with native speakers. You want to learn to juggle? You gotta drop hundreds of balls trying to learn.

When it comes to the basics of life, failure should not be the norm, but when it comes to growing into the life you are chasing after, failure is the price of admission.

The only true failure is letting fear win and not giving it your best damn shot.

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