On the benefits of failure

Failure is a rather unpopular concept and many people feel that failure has little to offer them. I would like to offer few thoughts on why you should get failure working for you.

The main benefit of adopting failure is that it provides you with an alternative to success. The importance of success is stuffed down our throats from a very early age – from before we learn to talk or walk. Throughout our childhood and education, success is held before us as the only possible objective. Don’t even get me started on success in the jobs market and in the workplace!

But you can break free from this endless treadmill of succeeding, simply by choosing to fail. Decide that a thing is too difficult for you and you are immediately freed from the need to try, so you can expend the saved energy on being happy with the rest of your life. Personal failure levels vary from person to person, so you probably need to experiment a bit to find the optimum level of failure.

Once you have given yourself permission to fail you should experience a new freedom in your life. You can learn to say “I can’t do that”, which will free you from a great variety of unpleasant obligations. You can begin new endeavours secure in the knowledge that you can discard them as soon as they lose their initial attraction. You can have adventures knowing that the safety net of failure will be there for you.

Often, however, it is the case that permitting yourself to fail will actually make you succeed. I make no apologies for this side-effect. It’s an idea explored in The Inner Game of Music by W. Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green and probably in Gallwey’s other Inner Game books (which I haven’t read). I think the logic behind it is that your fear of failure is often the only thing keeping you from succeeding and so if you remove the fear you stop getting in your own way.

The only place failure is championed is in the gym. Not down at the girly end by the mats and swiss balls, but in the sweaty region around the free weights (no, that’s not a euphemism). Only in weight training is working to failure considered a success (this is also why you should always have a spotter when working with any serious weights).

Owing to time constraints and distractions I’ll have to finish this post here, un-concluded, but I do not see this failure to complete as a bad thing – it frees me to do something else and you to draw your own conclusions on the place of failure in your life.


One thought on “On the benefits of failure

  1. Jon says:

    Very thoughtful, thanks Jennifer!
    Healthy approach to librarianship too ..,

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