Reframing Failure

Reframing Failure

The power of the word ‘yet’

Can’t you feel that twist in your gut as soon as you’re faced with what you perceive as a botched disaster? Here’s what I think… We need to think about and respond to failure differently. When faced with something we think we “bombed,” many of us immediately think, “this is a dead end,” or “I guess it’s time to give up.” This sort of thinking falls within a fixed mindset category, the idea that if “you didn’t ‘get it’ the first time, you must be really dumb. The challenge is evidence of a limitation. Instead, we might think of the effort it would take to achieve what we’re striving for as a virtue, rather than a sign of inability. The word ‘yet’ is a good one to use in these situations. We’re just not ‘done yet.’ We haven’t worked hard enough ‘yet.’ We need to embrace the idea that frustration and obstacles are a natural part of the goal striving process. As Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress.”

So, I think it’s possible to shift our view of failure to see it through a different lens, and consider it an obstacle rather than a dead end, or the bad news as feedback, as opposed to a time to quit. While discussing this concept with a bunch of engineers at a recent presentation, one participant responded with, “If you have enough passion, you’re immune to failure.” In other words, if you are zealously and internally motivated to accomplish something, and an obstacle arises, you are more likely determined to figure out a way around or over the roadblock. I wish I got the engineer’s name so I could give him credit, but I did tell him I needed to write down the quote because #1: it was brilliant, and #2: I knew it would come in handy. And so it has. Thanks to the guy sitting over by the window!

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