Learning From Failure
Posted on Thursday, 19 January 2017
The world we live in today would be starkly different had Alexander Graham Bell learned nothing in the wake of his failures and thrown in the proverbial towel. Shouting across the street and posting mail would still be customary practice. While not a failure per se, but perhaps one of the biggest historical missed opportunities was Graham Bell not patenting the telephone as the ‘Bellephone’; then again, I haven’t invented a device that has grown and evolved to shape modern civilization, so what do I know?

You are not unique, and you are not alone, this is of course due to the fact that everybody fails, time and again, over and over. Neo fell the first time he jumped, Michael Jordan missed over nine-thousand shots in his NBA career, including twenty-six field goals that would have won the Bulls the game, and Thomas Edison gave two thousand unsuccessful attempts at creating the filament for the incandescent light bulb. We know their names for their successes, and the only reason is because they learned from their failures and continued on despite them.

Your failure is a bit like one of those little Tamagotchi gizmos. You have to tend to it and learn from it and take responsibility for it, otherwise it just sits there beeping that annoying pitch at you until feed it and clean up after it and own it. You can only hoodwink yourself for so long, blaming outside forces and other folks for your gaffes and failures before you realize you’re in a Groundhog Day of disappointments, making the same mistakes, again and again, ad nauseam. Making yourself accountable for your blunders is instrumental in unearthing the lessons buried beneath your frustration.

After denial came acceptance, after acceptance comes moving on. The past is for the past, so, once you have accepted your imperfection and come to terms with the fact that failures will come, and come often in hordes, blast an off-key rendition of M People’s Movin’ On Up with the knowing confidence that the rest of the song bears no relevance to your situation and you have cherry-picked its chorus to fit. Learn from your mistakes, lest you doom yourself to make them again, and get on with it.

Like a good spring clean, let’s be honest, you have to be brutal, and you must be brutally honest when reassessing your strategies and approaches. There’s no room for sentiment, you know that you’ll never wear that sweater again, and you’re pretty confident that those flares just don’t work – so get rid of them. Hone in on the obvious issues and dig for the buried faults, and get rid of them from your plans. Reassess to rebound with renewed vim and vigor.

You can always improve. Even the best can get better. For every Neo there is a Morpheus, every Jordan has a Pippen and every Thomas Edison aligns with a J.P Morgan. Despite what many people think or will lead you to believe, most people don’t do it alone, many hands and whatnot. Speakers have speechwriters, orchestras have conductors, and you may need help. And that’s just fine. If all of your expertise has been exhausted, there’s no shame in bringing in an expert, or even just a fresh pair of eyes and ears to look and listen can be invaluable. An old saying from your old friend Ben Franklin suggests, “Wise men don’t need advice, fools won’t take it.”

You have to be passionate and patient. In addition to all aforementioned, those are two critical qualities. Success takes time and failures are going to come, that’s a given. So, passion is imperative if you’re going to get back on the proverbial horse each time you fall off; because falling off hurts, and if you aren’t that into riding, it’s doubtful you’ll gleefully bound back into the saddle. You’ve got to have the passion of a Joan Collins romp and the patience of the closing leaf of Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Stick at it, you’ll get there eventually and it’ll be worth it.

Don’t look back in anger, look back and learn. Failures are just the footsteps on the way to success, and there are going to be many of them, but only one of them has to work out. And who knows, maybe you’ll learn enough from all those blunders to create your own Bellephone for Michael Jordan to call his friend on to ask to feed his Tamagotchi while he’s away.

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