Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Afraid to Fail
I am reading the book The Art of Possibility and came across an interesting section about failure. There is a story about the composer Stravinsky. When questioned about one particularly difficult section of music, he replied that he didn't expect anyone to play it, but to sound like they were trying to play it. His purpose in writing the passage was to get someone to fail when they attempted it.
Throughout our life, we are told failure is bad. However, it's through failure that we can learn. Thomas Edison didn't think his earlier attempts to invent the light bulb as failures, just steps pointing him in the right direction. Abraham Lincoln had some political setbacks before eventually becoming President of the US.
So when is it ok to fail? If you're trying a new technology, running a pilot project is a good idea. That way, if it does fail, there isn't a lot invested, and you learn something from it. If you're trying to run a 4-hour marathon and come in a few minutes slower, it could be looked at as a failure, but you still accomplished something.
We need to set stretch goals for ourselves. If we don't accomplish these goals, we've still increased our abilities and learned from them. If we always sit in our comfort zone, we never grow.
A stretch goal for me over the past few years has been to develop as a public speaker. I still get nervous anytime I stand in front of a group, but now I am much more composed. There have been presentations I've done in the past that haven't gone as well as I would have liked. I've learned the importance of spending a lot of time practicing before any presentation, even if it's just a project kick-off meeting for a small project team. If I wasn't afraid to fail, I would have never gotten to this point.
So, are you willing to fail?
Photo Credit: Ian Lewis, licensed under Creative Commons
Posted by Bob Tarne at Tuesday, November 17, 2009