Friday, October 30, 2015


One writer's small effort to rehabilitate 

the reputation of failure.

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I recently encountered a LinkedIn post, entitled, How To Use Failure To Your Advantage by Dr. Travis Bradberry. He is the award-winning co-author of the bestseller, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

The suggested techniques make sense for anyone who thinks failure is an infinitely shameful experience. But is it? Does it have to be shameful and embarrassing?

Failure - when experienced as a potent form of negative feedback - can be accompanied by significant emotional distress and self-generated or externally-prompted behavioral modification. It may take the form of avoidance behavior and self-inflicted punishment, corporeal or emotional. 

After an encounter with failure, some decide that they are stupid, worthless and deserve to suffer. Such an outcome can do profound harm to one's quality of life. 

Perhaps failure and the negative impulses it prompts deserve reconsideration. 


What is "failure?"  

There may not be single or simple definition. But its connotation is easier to sum up. Failure is unacceptable. It is useless.

Failure isn't a real thing or act. It isn't even an accurate description of a thing or act. It is the label we attach to that thing or act. It is a value judgment backed with super glue.

Who would want to be labelled a failure or associated with one? The fact that it is so damned constricting makes it especially soul-killing and ego damaging.

But suppose that failure were not unacceptable. Say you suddenly realized that someone had slapped the wrong label on that thing or act. The wrong label!  (According to the newspaper, human beings make mistakes daily.)

So what happens when you detach the failure label? The cooties disappear. 

Now failure looks more like an error. Heck, it might even prove a roaring success. Isn't that what happened when Norma Jean Mortenson was relabeled Marilyn Monroe? 

In this paradigm, failure error is not the end. It is a starting point. It signals that there is something to be learned, a breakthrough waiting to be discovered. What was once apparently irredeemable and useless now signals profound value. Errors can be corrected.

Like the very best teachers, failure error encourages us to move forward. It challenges us and opens our eyes to opportunities we were unaware of. The more open we are to failure error, the faster we can grow. 

So is failure error the same thing as a challenge? Certainly failure error proved a plenty big challenge for me. When I finally reversed one of my first major failures errors, I gleaned a life-changing lesson. 

Once I could do that thing I hadn't been able to do before, it seemed that no one cared how long it had taken me or how often I had failed erred. All that mattered was that I could and that I wanted to.  

Overcoming challenges is what human beings were designed to do, given that human existence is chock full of challenges. There is, of course, something to be said for picking your challenges wisely. But wisely chosen or not, failure error is an essential and often undervalued educational aid. 

Respect each failure error for the value it delivers. Address it, then release it. Do not dally. 

There are always new and better failures errors dead ahead.


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