How boring life would be if everything were predictable.
In 2014, Pema Chodron gave the commencement address at her granddaughter’s graduation, which was then turned into a beautiful book called Fail Fail Again Fail Better: wise advice for leaning into the unknown. It is based on this quote from Samuel Beckett.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
As a former A++ personality with extremely high (likely unrealistic) expectations and perfectionistic tendencies, I grew up, like many, thinking failure was bad; something to be avoided at all costs. Ever hear the phrase “failure is not an option”? Hmmm in real life, failure is not only an option, it’s a reality and it‘s a good thing if we know what to do with it.
Failing means you tried. Failing means you were courageous and brave enough to risk failure while striving to succeed.
It’s what you do with the failed attempt that matters.
Recently, a launch my business partner and I had planned meticulously failed to attract any customers. My initial response was, “What did we do wrong?” But that only lasted a minute or so and I soon turned the question around and asked myself, “What did we do right?”
Acknowledging what we did right was not just a feel-good exercise. It brought awareness to the things that we can do more of the next time.
Ahhh - the next time. Disappointment, discouragement and that yucky feeling of rejection can feel daunting. It’s what stops a great idea from seeing the light. It’s what results in shelved plans and projects. Lost and unrealized dreams.
Pema Chodron points out that James Joyce replaced failure with mistake. And she re-phrased his words like this:
“… mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things.”
Creativity is something I understand and can lean into.
Failure is also a time to look at the mistakes, not with shame but curiosity. What’s worked before? What else might work? What was in our control and what was just circumstances beyond our control?
Failure can be a huge energy drain or it can be a learning opportunity. And it’s always our choice. So, I think I’ll don my audacity suit and try again, even if that means making more mistakes.
I write about master minds, creativity, productivity, and the Kaizen philosophy as it relates to creative living.