by Guest Poster . January 14th, 2015
By Aaron Armour
Aaron is a business process consultant for Target and has more than 15 years of managing teams, some as large as 200 employees
I get these feelings moments before the rollercoaster takes off. And moments before I do something out of my comfort zone.
Have you seen any of the Epic Fail YouTube videos? There’s one with a kid who wipes out on his bike and the girl that slips resulting in a 4 point landing. It’s a bit astonishing – err, disturbing? – to see how popular they are.
These videos teach that failure is to be avoided. If you try something new you will get hurt and you will be laughed at. It’s no wonder, then, that people approach life with the same avoidance of failure as we would avoid failing as spectacularly as these poor souls in the videos.
Failure for most of us will have zero physical pain associated with it. If you’re like me, meeting a stranger is laden with irrational anxiety. The fear of what-happens-next in that context should be incredibly disproportionate to the same question asked before riding a bike off the roof into a swimming pool.
But these fears are overstated. By a lot.
Failure can be exceptionally valuable when we use these events as learning opportunities. Focusing on the benefits of failure will help move past the fear of failure.
Here are 4 benefits of failure.
When an athlete desires to grow muscle, she will push the muscle to the point of failure. When the muscle repairs itself after the failure it grows stronger than it was before. In school, we test children to the point where they don’t know the answers, and that’s where learning begins.
Failure is as inherent to living as growing. To stop failing indicates a stoppage in growth. We need to allow ourselves to fail and fail often as long as we can use these failings to grow.
My daughter was sharpening her math skills using flash cards. On Fridays her class competed in “Math Karate” where students would square off against one another to see who could answer the flash card the fastest (Math Karate is a cooler name than what we called it in 3rd grade). After the first week of this age-old competition, my daughter was the slowest (aka WORST) player in the class.
She came home discouraged. We worked on her flash cards all week. Her younger brother joined in the festivities and was kicking her tail…regularly. It was a bad scene. But we kept working at it.
We worked hard for the next 9 weeks and she made huge improvements. She steadily picked up more math karate skills until she was battling it out for the number 1 spot in the class. On the final Karate Math day of the year, she was determined to win.
The night before the big showdown we practiced. We talked through the scenarios. How would she stay focused? What would she concentrate on?
I came home that day excited to hear how she did.
“How was the final day of Karate Math kiddo?”
“I finished second. I just COULD NOT beat [this kid]. I did my very best and he was just too quick for me.”
“Oh MAN! How do you feel about that?”
“Dad! I got SECOND place in the WHOLE CLASS! I feel GREAT!”
We laughed and then reminisced about starting in dead last.
It took a lot of work, commitment and dedication to push to her failing point every week before she would know exactly how well she could do.
Our culture has created a significant amount of pressure to live mistake-free. As a kid I didn’t know “normal” adults failed at anything. Granted, I saw those people on TV who made poor decisions and ended up in jail. I assumed if people weren’t in jail they didn’t make any mistakes, or something like that.
It’s a falsehood to think people grow out of failing. In fact, as we get older it is our ability to grow and earn from failures that will have a compounded effect on the success that comes from applied learning from those failures.
The only way I know to allow failure to be comfortable is to do it.
The best leaders and most respected people I know expect to fail frequently. In fact, many plan to fail 3 or more times per week! Their perspective is that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. I have to admit I’ve been not trying a lot of things because I didn’t want to fail.
Now it’s your turn to do something where failure is most imminent. It won’t be catastrophic (hint: most failures aren’t). The key is allowing yourself to fail, accept it, learn from it, and grow as a result.
What’s one thing you will do this week to promote failure? I would love to hear about it – leave a comment below.
Aaron has more than 15 years of managing teams, some as large as 200 employees. He has been in charge of running programs with nearly $1,000,000 in payouts and projects with annual budgets of over $50 million.
Aaron is passionate about helping managers lead people, and thrill clients. Manager Launch Pad was built to help new managers experience tremendous growth by avoiding pitfalls that can derail managers.
Find more about Aaron at ManagerLaunchPad.com and LinkedIn.
Connect with Aaron On LinkedIn!
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