It’s OK to Fail:
Why You Need to Fail in Order to Become Successful
If you’re like me, you have often felt the pressures of expectation. Often times that expectation is self-imposed, but other times you might feel like people are expecting you to be at a certain point in your life at a certain time, and if you’re not there, you feel like you’ve failed. Failure is a powerful thing that can both drive us to greatness or cripple us with doubt. I am going to go over the process which has worked for me, and hopefully help you, to not become paralyzed by fear of failure and learn to embrace failure and turn it into success.
Fear of Failure
The fear of failure is probably one of the hardest things I have had to overcome in my life. Often times this fear was self-imposed due to a pressure I put on myself for no reason. I felt like if I wasn’t the best, I was the worst or I had to be perfect out the gate whenever I tried something new. If you are new to an industry or a skill, you might feel like you have this pressure to be perfect, whether it be in your class or starting your new business. If you don’t get that A you feel like you failed, or if you don’t get that client you feel like you failed. That failure is often discouraging and leads us to not want to act in the future. We are ingrained with seeing failures as a negative aspect in life which inhibits us from acting in the future. This is the first hurdle you need to overcome. You need to learn to face fear and act anyways. Take the risk, make the leap and a net will appear. You can’t progress unless you actually move forward. I know it’s scary to think of trying something and failing, but there is no shame in that. My parents, as I’m sure many other parents have told you growing up, that “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you tried your best.” That’s all anyone in this life can do, is their best. So to overcome that first hurdle of fear, the key is to focus on doing your best and the rest will follow, because you can’t start to win, unless you’re willing to try.
Change Your Perspective
One of my art teachers in high school would often say, “There is no reality, there is only perspective.” This often has stuck with me when I’m trying to empathize with someone or see their side of an argument. But in life, as in art, everything is perspective. There have been some great sculptures out there that don’t make sense until you see them from a certain perspective—and the same goes with life and failure. You might not see the importance of failure because you need to shift your perspective. You need to start to shift your way of thinking and see failures as opportunities. I know what you’re thinking, “I just failed, I lost, how is that an opportunity?” It’s an opportunity because now you get to see what doesn’t work and now have a way to try to make it better or finding an easier solution. Change your perspective on failure and you will have conquered the second hurdle.
We Learn from Our Mistakes
Think back to when you were a kid and you did something, in hindsight, that was really stupid. Maybe you were that kid who stuck a fork in an outlet, or ate all of their Halloween candy in one sitting. You got hurt or got a really bad stomach ache. Or as an adult and you go out to eat, the server cautions you that the plate is hot, but you touch it anyways and burn your hand. You (hopefully!) learned something from those experiences and you can then carry that knowledge with you so the next time someone tells you a plate is hot, you listen to them so you don’t get burned. We learn more from our mistakes and failures than we do from our successes. By being open to failure, we can teach ourselves valuable things. Even some of the greatest discoveries, like penicillin and Kevlar, were discovered by mistake. Always remember you never know what will work, until you figure out what doesn’t work.
Failure Doesn’t Mean Bad
Often times when designing for a project, you will go through many different concepts and drafts till you figure out something that works. I know from my own personal experience, when coming up with a new design, I will have this one idea stuck in my head and I need to get it out and put it on paper. I will do just that and then I get to see that it wasn’t a great idea for that project, but now that that idea is out of the way, it allows even better ideas to start coming up which will work. I don’t throw away my first failed design however. I will keep it, because you never know when a future project will need that design. It still might be a good design, but it didn’t’ work for that particular project. Always remember that just because something doesn’t work, doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad. It just means it doesn’t work and that’s OK. Your job is to figure out what does work which leads us into the last step.
Persistence Equals Success
You have probably heard someone say, “You never know unless you try.” This is one of the best pieces of advice when it comes to turning failure into success. You don’t know how something will turn out unless you’re willing to try it out for yourself. If it works for you, great, but more often than not, your first attempt at anything is going to fail. When you were a baby, first learning to walk, you fell down…a lot. But you got right back up and tried again. That’s the key to success. No matter how often you fall, if you keep getting back up, you will eventually win. I know it is hard sometimes too, finding that motivation to get back up, but that’s when you have to shift your perspective and look at why you keep falling in the first place. Learn from your mistakes, and actually change and fix those mistakes. If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to fail and then try again until you succeed.
Failure is part of design and part of life. No matter what your field is, you will fail at some point and that’s OK. Always remember that art asks questions and design poses solutions. Sometimes those solutions work and sometimes they don’t. To overcome failure, you need to overcome fear of failure by shifting your perspective, learning from your mistakes, and stop questioning your worth. Remember, if you take that risk of failure, you always risk success as well.
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