Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Failure

I realize I haven’t spent enough time teaching my boys how to fail. I’m not talking about the failure that comes from not trying – that rarely begins or ends with anything positive. I am thinking more about the failure that comes from trying.

I am a lousy handyman. Well, no, I have been a lousy handyman. For most of my adult life I have steered clear of all but the most obviously easy tasks. If the problem was small, I’d just learn to live with it – drippy faucets, peeling paint, stuck windows. If the issue was bigger, well, thank God I had the ability to hire professionals!

Sure, I didn’t have the skills. But then again, neither did my brother in law Mike, but it never seemed to stop him – I think he has rebuilt his kitchen at least 3 times since joining our family- not to mention raising his house 4 feet so he could build his own recording studio. What did he have that I didn’t have?

Mike’s not afraid to fail. I have seen him screw things up plenty of times. But he doesn’t jump up and down, throw tools, hate himself or any of that. He just figures it out and moves on. Here I am more content living with the annoying sound of dripping water, or cold air blasting through that crack in the window – than I am risking failure by trying to fix it myself.

I have learned that good failing comes in the three phases. The trying phase, the admitting phase, and the getting-on-with-it phase.

It all starts with trying. This is where all those voices that I’ve grown up with tell me I can’t, or I shouldn’t. They really count for nothing – rarely do their words amount to a ‘voice of reason’. So, ignore and press on. It is always worth it to try.

Then comes the failing part, which while not a certainty – does happen. I have learned that if I do fail, to fail fast. That is to admit to myself that I’ve screwed up. If I stay in denial, things usually only get worse.

Ok, so I’ve failed. This is where I either wallow in self pity, play it over and over in my mind, listen to the ‘I told you so’s’, or just move on. Usually this type of failing comes with its own lessons – often hard won.

Of course the handyman thing is a metaphor here for so many areas of my life. From marriage, parenting, work – fear of failure has usually caused more issues than trying, failing, and moving on. Who knew that failure could be such a source for success.

3 comments:

  1. Some good advice I heard recently from an entrepreneur is a banner he saw in some company that read "FAIL QUICKLY". It is in our failure that we learn, so to fail quickly is to learn something and get on with it. thx for the reminder Rory - good post.

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  2. This is so good. I am scared to death of failing. The 'climate' of the group of people around me screams that success, and not just success, but ass-kicking rock star success, is the only way to feel worth something. I need to spend more time with real people and for heaven's sake, get on with taking some risks. Life is just too fing short.

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