Go ahead and fail big. Lessons on why failure is worth it.

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My son is going into grade nine next year and has to choose his courses now. It is a lot of pressure and it brought me back to when I was his age. Not only did I have to choose my courses I also had to move cities and start grade nine 2 hours away from where I lived my whole life. I have never thought of myself as a risk taker but I really think deep down I am. Heck, I started a business, didn’t I? Back then in grade 8, I was challenged by academics and it was suggested that I take “general courses” – my teacher handed me the paperwork and said give this to your new school. When I arrived to enroll they never asked me for the paperwork and instead just asked me what I wanted to take. WHAT?  I wasn’t going to show them that my old school thought that I was stupid.  I decided instead that I would take advanced courses. It sounded like a good choice – why limit myself?

If I took general courses university would not be an option for me. I wanted options.

I would like to tell you that I passed all the classes with flying colours back in grade 9, and was an instant success story, but I would be lying. I failed nearly all of my courses that year. But it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it. No, it was that I decided it would be more fun to hang out with the cool kids and skipping classes. I partied a lot. I had a huge complex about being stupid so I decided that year I was going to be what I thought everyone thought I was: the cute, dumb girl. I made people laugh at my self-deprecating jokes and next thing I knew I was going down the road to failure – tumbling hard downhill. Things pretty much stayed that way until grade 11 when by chance I had two teachers, both English teachers that saw past my smoke and mirrors and called me on my bull shit.  Through their mentorship, I started to believe in myself and my grades started to rise. By grade 13 I was on the honour roll and graduated high school with an honours diploma. I was even offered a modest scholarship to attend university (I didn’t go but that’s another story).

So failure has always taught me a lot. Most recently it taught me what I truly wanted – and since I faced it with a growth mindset it allowed me to move past the wounded ego and rebound quickly.

So my question is what has failure taught you?

(The following is a story I found on the benefits of failing – I hope you like it. It comes from the website “The Balance”

FAIL and HARDER.

Two words that, when placed together, create an idea much bigger than themselves. These two words are emblazoned on a wall at Wieden & Kennedy’s main office – an image made entirely of thumbtacks; over 100,000 of them to be more accurate.

Of course, it would have been easier to create those words with the thumbtacks, and leave the space around them blank.

That’s not the W&K way. Instead, the negative space is filled with the thumbtacks, leaving the words FAIL HARDER, in a beautifully scripted font, to shine through.

It took 351 hours to complete.

In essence, they chose the hard way to get the message across. This is in the DNA of one of the most successful, and most creative, advertising agencies in the world. And it underlines one of the most important lessons in advertising:

DO NOT BE AFRAID OF FAILURE; EMBRACE IT.

It’s often said that one of the greatest motivators of creativity, in the advertising and design industry, is fear.

  • Fear of missing a deadline.
  • Fear of disappointing the creative director.
  • Fear of having the client reject everything.
  • Fear of looking bad in a presentation.
  • Fear of doing irrelevant, invisible, or bad advertising.

While those are all legitimate fears, they should never be encouraged. Creative people put those pressures on themselves anyway, so if you’re in a position of power in an ad agency, don’t reinforce them. You’re turning failure into a negative, when in fact, it is absolutely necessary for creative exploration.

Famous People Agree, Failure Is Essential.

Consider these quotes from some great people who achieved great things:

“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” – Thomas Edison

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Sir Winston Churchill

“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” – Tony Robbins

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

There’s a noticeable pattern emerging – one of learning from mistakes, and exploration. Failure is not pleasant. But it does teach us something if we’re open-minded and are ready to learn from it.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to treat failure with the respect it deserves from now on.

 

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