Failing can be one of the most productive things you can do. Most people try to avoid failure. I’m not saying that this is bad, but in many cases they are just delaying failure to a later point in time. If something you are doing is going to result in failure you should do your best to make sure it happens sooner rather than later. With few exceptions, failing now is going to be less expensive (in time, money, mental stress) than failing one year from now.
As an example, think about a relationship. If two people are dating and they discover a particular area where they aren’t compatible at all, they can avoid that area. However, this may extend their relationship and just cause it to fail in the future. Failing in the future is more expensive in time and money and also in opportunity costs (you may miss someone with whom you would be very happy).
Instead of ignoring conflict areas, couples can do themselves a favor by directly confronting those areas in a way that will either lead to resolution/compromise or make it clear that they won’t be happy together in the future.
This same principle applies to most other areas where failure is a possibility. If you think you want to study Astro Physics, it is probably unwise to spend your first two years at college taking a bunch of easy general education classes. Obviously, don’t start out with a grad level course, but you should take some of the classes that are known to be hard in the area you want to pursue. You may find that you have no natural abilities in that area, so even if you don’t fail from a grade standpoint, you may completely fail from a satisfaction standpoint.
Failure leads to change and you’ll grow faster by failing more quickly, learning from the failure and moving on to something where you can be successful. Life is too short to try to delay failure.
Originally published on January 17, 2006.
This is an important point, and I think you stated it eloquently. In a way it reminds me of Tim Ferriss recent article on Why Language Classes Don’t Work, where he talks about the “ego-crushing interaction” and “making more mistakes” as keys to becoming fluent in languages.
Mike Sporer says
Too many people in our society view a mistake as failure. In schools, we place too much emphasis on the almighty grade. Truth is that 4.0 doesn’t necessarily translate to more intelligence or greater ability. And when I want to hire for a position, hands-on ability and common sense are more desirable than good grades.
Elementary schools prepare kids for middle school, middle school pepares kids for high school, high school prepares them for college, and colleges aren’t aligned with the needs of modern society. School systems seem to be oblivious to the real world!
Great post! So true; Fear of failure can be paralyzing…….