Failure is always an option

July 16th, 2010 § 3 comments

I was recently watching an episode of Mythbusters where the team presented their Top 25 moments. There’s one bit that stood out for me which I think everyone should watch which starts at around the 2 min mark:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw4I-eJHa-w]

Failure is always an option.

I love how Adam explains it. That’s been something I’ve believed in since my own epic failure about 10 years ago. I went from being a good student to getting suspended from uni. *grin* Mind you, I wasn’t grinning much when it happened, but as life went on and I reflected on what had happened, what I done, where it led me, I became increasingly convinced that it was the best thing that had to happen. I stopped regretting and started putting the data it produced to use. A lot of where and what I am now comes directly from that failure. (Not that there haven’t been others :P)

One thing I’ve realised about failure – a lot of how one reacts to it and how much one learns from it depends a lot on how people around you react to your failure. For example, my parents don’t quite share my enthusiasm about my failure. They get upset when I say it was a good thing. My dad insists I wasted those years of my life. I claim it’s not a waste if you learn. I’ve also learnt that a sure way to get him mad, but I digress….

What I hear from them is fear. They are concerned about me, but they also think that I shouldn’t be taking any risks because I’ve already messed up badly once. I shouldn’t be wasting time and resources on something which might not work in my favour.
That kind of reaction to failure can be very debilitating, especially when it comes from the more prominent people in one’s social circle. And so the other lesson I’ve learnt is to focus on the lessons when someone shares their failure with me.

I’m grateful that many of the people I know in the tech startup scene are great when dealing with failure. But I think it can be better, especially in the Aussie context. (I know this because I’ve experienced reactions to failure here – not very pleasant to say the least.) I think it is our duty to create an environment where failure is treated as a good thing, not something to be brushed under the rug or looked upon with pity. If we support one another, we’ll all learn. We’ll all grow. And we’ll all be free to start succeeding.

“Any experiment that yields data is a viable experiment. Information is key, not what you expected the outcome to be. Therefore, any kind of failure of what we perceive might happen, is an option”

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