Sunday, October 21, 2007

Failure to fail.... enough

I've being thinking about the benefits of failure and how I need to integrate more chances to fail into my daily life. What the hell, I see you read (actually, that is bollocks because I am always wondering who the hell is reading this, and it surprises me that some people are...hi there!)...I see you read and exclaim@ "You've been away for a few months and now you're all keen to fail??"

Yup. Yes I am.

I've definitely failed at a lot - this isn't an alien experience. In the past year I've failed to get beyond the basic steps of salsa dancing; my yoga practice has come to a grinding halt; I still am as doofy on roller-blades as I was when I bought them ...oh....four years ago? and although I definitely enjoyed DJ classes, I doubt anyone'd be happy if I was spinning at the next party. My room is still undecorated, and I've killed three bonsai trees. At one point I dyed my hair and it went grey. (Yesterday I had it changed again and it is frickin awesome...if I had never dyed my hair grey, I would never have discovered my awesome hairdresser)

For some reason, (like many people I assume), outside of work and career, I've not been afraid to go out and try new things. I've shifted between countries, cities, suburbs and houses of my own accord. I've travelled where I wanted to go, and I've explored the dirtier facets, and the more privileged sides life. Even in my 'romantic' life, I notice a thread running through, whereby my long-term ex-boyfriends were a) very different from me in many ways and b) were risk takers, particularly in how they chose to make money.

Looking at great entrepreneurs and generally, a lot of people who seem to be following their dreams, often working for themselves and creating their own paths, there is a common thread. They take risks. And they fail, again and again. Because - and I know this sounds simple - but failing is a chance to learn (and learning is currency - a new theory of mine I'll come back to in the future (blah blah blah!).

In my own life, it seems that in so many areas, I'm not afraid to fail, and yet when it comes to money, which is intrinsically tied to work, I am very conservative. And those big dreams - the ideal life, the ideal job - they sniff at my heels constantly and are kicked away by a little voice that says that If I can't be really really good at it, why try? What if I invested a whole lot and didn't like it? What if no one cared?

Because failure is a chance to learn. For me. Because failure can be fun. Because failure has the potential to clear the way for stuff that is currently unimagined. Because all successful people fail. Because failure shouldn't be all or nothing. Below is a pick of about how much I learnt at DJ school. See, even my brother, who never went, picked it up....

There is a common phrase - "do something that scares you every day". In the same vein, I want to try doing something that I have the potential to fail at, every day.

In fact, the point is to just do it, and not worry about it being perfect. Like this post....I started thinking about how I'd neglected my blog, and what I wanted to write, and started getting out my positive psychology books and digging for info on the benefits of failure..... and I fell asleep instead!

And so this post is the first thing, my first attempt at a) something that is interesting to me in terms of being integrated into what I want to build into my career, and b) something I could potentially fail at and therefore c) something I can learn from. I already feel like this post is crammed with caveats (such as, my interest in positive psychology is a) a career goal and b) something I AM chasing....and also, that in my current role at the agency I am at, I do learn new things often, some of which require me to attempt things that include a certain amount of risk...but these are not MY risks, my personal, precedented risks)

Okay, so here are a few potential failures to I want to start with:
  • Learn how to use a digital camera; film someone/something;edit it;upload it

  • Think of a topic and write an article for a non-US audience; submit it to a publication/media outlet.

  • Create something that requires an audience and present it

  • Invest money in something that is not a savings account - or at least make a decision based on whether or not this is possible

  • Teach something to someone directly. Gain an understanding the value of transferring knowledge.

The difference between these goals and my various, previous dibbles and dabbles is that these are more in line with enhancing my ability to create something of value (to me, in my working life). Therefore they carry more risk.

As such, I have to open the way for me to make a very bad film, write an article that no one wants to read, make a presentation that people talk right through; invest in something that loses money and teach something that no one wants to learn. These are all possibilities. And they should all be okay. They have to be okay, otherwise I will never start.

So hmm, where to from here? If these are my stated goals then I need a timeline. And priorities. So, I think, every day, I will try to do one thing in line with these goals that edges me forward. That insists that I try. That creates room for more.

And if I fail shockingly at each and learn nothing (see, even saying that seems ludicrous) then at least I will have tried. And anyway, I do want to learn to tap dance....


Anonymous said...

Although he would have been at the opposite end of your political spectrum, the opportunity to fail was a catch-cry of Ronald Reagan when he was running for President. His line, and I heard him say it in Sacramento, was that people who try and fail should never be criticised as they were the go-getters and ultimately would achieve while the critics were more likely to sit on their hands and do nothing.

CB said...

I do think there is a culture in the US of trying, of giving things a go...but it is strange: there is this driving sense of individuality which is tempered with a focus on family and religious values, and also of entrepreneurship which is tempered by litigiousness and the moral-breaking healthcare system. the ends of extremes.

Tallman said...

Interesting article. And good to see from the other post that you are moving through your failure list.
Also interesting that you look at the risks you have taken (for example, changing continents) and yet are dissatisfied with yourself for having avoided other risks. Have you been rewarded for the major life risks you have taken or have they turned out badly? Can that be teaching you to be more or less risk adverse?

CB said...

Well, life being as it is, has upsides adn downsides. Overall, I would say that every time I've taken a mjor life risk, i've been rewarded. Even if I don't realize it til later. Then again, I've occasionally been in a position where I was out of work and had very little money. That was not such a good time. But i never starved, and never took a 'menial' job. Now I'm not so sure that was a good thing...menial work still involves some skill. (Okay, I'm thinking cocktail bar work here!!)