THE ILLUSION OF FAILURE
Failure is the one fear that always puts the brakes on creativity, innovation, risk taking, growth, and productivity, yet most of us have been programmed from our earliest years to be afraid of failure. The person who has learned not to be afraid, who has shifted his or her paradigm about failure, creates the feedback necessary for learning. He or she turns the fear of failure into personal power.
Life is an error-making and error-correcting process.
—JONAS SALK, developer of the polio vaccine
Feedback from failure gives us the information necessary for course correction. A heat-seeking missile is off-target most of the time. An airplane is off-course the majority of its flight pattern. It is the built-in course correction system that guides the missile to its target or the airplane to its destination.
I was fortunate to have a family who constantly supported me to explore new areas. Because I was praised for my efforts and not punished if the result didn’t appear to be successful, I was not conditioned to label my efforts as failure. I was taught that if others did, that was their problem. I was encouraged to look at any outcome, positive or negative, as a learning experience and use it as a guide in my next project.
Occasionally, of course, I was discouraged. From time to time, I still am. But, I had some monumental failures and have learned grown and honor those failures.
American engineer and futurist Buckminster Fuller wrote, ‘‘Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence only of trial and error experience. Humans have learned through mistakes.’’ Think of three events in your life that you or someone else labeled as failure and ask yourself what you learned from them. You will see quite clearly that there was always growth. Sometimes we learn from our own mistakes, and sometimes we learn from the mistakes of others, but learning always makes life exciting, passionate, and fun.
There is no learning without risk, and there is no risk taking without the possibility of failure. Once our attitude shifts from punishing failure to rewarding risk, growth will take place in seemingly magical leaps.
Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind by James Mapes, Sourcebooks, page. 84-85