My boyfriend Jonathan, who is the brain behind In The Limelight, recently posted an interesting article called Learning From Success Versus Learning From Failure and it got me to thinking. He states that learning from failure is an ineffective way to learn and that often times people don’t even learn anything when they fail because they are too discouraged by their shortcoming to even try to see the positive side.
I agree that failure is an ineffective way to learn something. However, it is at the very least an opportunity to learn something. One can take a failure and just stare at it and think “I’m such a stupid person, all I can do is fail, fail, fail. I can never do anything right. This must be a sign that I just suck at life.” And then from there, they choose to lead a very unfulfilling life because they have “learned” from failure that they are incapable of becoming anything great, achieving anything of significance, or meaning anything at all to another human being. And so they invest everything in this way of thinking and begin a downward spiral of not allowing themselves to try anything at all because there is even a risk of failure. They allow the failure to take them over and stagnate their lives. This way of thinking is, in a sense, failure.
On the flip side, if one experiences failure and confronts it head on and decides that, yes, they can learn something from this, then I think they are allowing themselves to become more as a person. They have recognized the failure, realized that they did something wrong and chosen to move beyond it instead of letting it be a permanent obstacle. It is through admitting that you were wrong and acknowledging the fact that sometimes you don’t necessarily do everything right the first time that you are not allowing failure to get the better of you, thus allowing yourself to live a more free life. This all takes a lot of humility because who wants to admit they were wrong? However, if you step back and have that humility, in the end, it is so worth it compared to the alternative.
I know this is true because I have experienced some pretty big and significant failures in my life. And at first I allowed them to consume me. I turned into a depressed, unmotivated person. I didn’t want to try again because I was afraid that I would only continue to fail and I didn’t want to experience the feeling of letting yourself or those around you down again. Luckily I slowly began to realize that this way of thinking would never allow me to even go back to where I was in life before I failed, let alone ever go beyond that. That was when I took hold of my failures, saw them for what they were, admitted I had failed (which by the way is very hard, if you are not a humble person by nature, like me) learned all the intricacies of each one (the whys and the hows), and made peace with myself through recognizing that I had failed and not allowing myself to continue in the downward thinking of never being able to succeed. Through that process I turned those failures from obstacles into opportunities. And the feeling of making peace with yourself and your mistakes is such a huge relief.
Of course, you’re probably thinking, it would be nice to have never had to deal with those failures in the first place. But then, those things wouldn’t be a part of our lives, and I honestly believe that everything we experience shapes us into who we are at this very moment. You can go through life with an “avoidist” kind of attitude, keeping yourself away from any chance of failure, but I think that kind of lifestyle only makes boring people who don’t take risks. I believe the better option is to can go through life taking those risks and when failure does come to learn from the mistake. Or better yet, take the risk and reap the joys of the great successes that came as a result, because without those risks, there would never even be a possibility of success.
Sure learning from failure is an inefficient way of learning, and I most certainly wouldn’t suggest going out and trying all the options you have knowing you’ll fail in the off-chance that you might learn something. No. But it’s all in how you look at it. Approaching all things in life with an open mind and trying to pick yourself up each time you do something wrong. Taking risks and hoping for the best. Putting value in the lessons you have learned from failure and rejoicing in all of your successes. I guess it’s easier said than done, but then again, I am an eternal optimist. In any case, I wish you, with the greatest sincerity “happy failing”.