Saturday, June 8, 2013

Enjoy failure - kind of...

I never thought I would write a post with this heading, but that was because I was not thinking about failure the right way.

Several months ago I realised that I tweet about it being okay to talk about failure, but realised I don’t often talk about my failures, and realistically they happen every day.  People around me know this, just as I know their failures.   

JK Rowling puts it really well, (and here is the complete text of the talk) and you can watch the video below

Wil Wheaton has some impressive things to say about failure too, and Scott Higgins is also helpful.

In a recent talk Neil Gaiman said "When the rules are gone you can make up your own rules. You can fail, you can fail more interestingly, you can try things, and you can succeed in ways nobody would have thought of, because you're pushing through a door marked no entrance, you're walking in through it. You can do all of that stuff but you just have to become a dandelion, be wiling for things to fail, throw things out there, try things, and see what sticks. That was the thrust of my speech," 

You could stop reading and watching here. 
"Ever tried / Ever failed / No matter / Fail again / Fail better" Samuel Beckett, inspiraciĆ³n de @teamlabs

I am talking about failure now, as part of my learning about it, but also to make it easier for other people to talk about too.  Sounds a bit like I am talking about an addiction, but rather I think the addiction is not talking about failure, and about not admitting to failure, and about not admitting that we all fail, often. Failure is not always something enjoyable to live through, but on the other hand it can be liberating.  

You can fail and still do amazing things, and you can do amazing things because you fail at what you set out to do, provided you have the right attitude.  I still delivered on a lot in Timor Leste and in some unexpected areas there, however, there were other ways I failed.  Once I realised I was going to fail, and I have to admit there were a few crunch moments about this (it was not pleasant), a different part of my brain clicked in as I sought to problem solve my way through this.  This was really exciting, and it meant I was actually thinking differently, I really could also feel it happening in my brain.  Part of this was thinking more creatively, there was more desperation in my thinking and that helped too.

I am also not saying I fail because I am a perfectionist.  I am not a perfectionist and I think perfectionism is close to evil.  I think one should strive for excellence, but perfectionism is dangerous and destroys many great and amazing things, and can really stop people thinking creatively.  

We don't have to be happy about failure, but choosing to deny failure happens is ignoring the important point J K Rowling made, and to quote her:

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.


  1. Wow, I actually need to bookmark this entry and come back to re-read it, thank you for sharing about failure!!

  2. I've just been given permission to run a project at work to do proof of concept test on building a linked data repository - in discussion with my supervisor we acknowledged that we might fail but that there would be useful learning and skill building for my organisation during the process regardless of the outcome. This actually gives me more confidence and faith in the project.