Can Epic Failure really lead to success? I think it can and does. In this Post I will discuss how epic failure can help you being successful in the future and why failing big isn't a bad thing and sometimes just the right thing at the right time.
Two more reasons why I am writing about failing, going down and getting up again. First, in the current Issue of the Wired Magazine (18.01) are the Cover Stories (eg. The Neuroscience of Screwing up) about failing and success. And second, what is the main reason why I am writing about epic failure: I am just suffering from one myself. It doesn't matter in what I failed, I just say that it was a highly important goal I wanted to reach and I failed - what sucks.
Failing is something you simply can't avoid in your life. Some people say that life actually is only stumbling from one crisis to another - and they are right. So what should you do when you can't avoid failure?
First thing is, to include the possibility of failure in your initial plans. Don't ignore failure and never treat it as something entirely bad. Second thing is that when you failed at something, you actually learnt something, be it the thing you failed at or just something about yourself. We tend to learn less from success than we do from failure, thats a simple fact every high-paid Business Consultant will tell you.
Back to the first step you should take when you want to reach a goal: including failure in your plans and calculations. When I bought my overpriced black Moleskine Notebook, I took a green (such a positive colour) felt pen and wrote 3 big words, which mark the beginning of 3 short paragraphs: Imagine, Create, Learn. These 3 words have become a personal motto to me. These 3 words mark not only the beginning of 3 paragraphs but they mean much more. Imagining new ideas, creating and developing your ideas and learning from errors (there you have it) and successes equally.
Of course I won't keep the the full 3 paragraphs hidden from you:
Imagine your success!!
How does it look like?
How does it feel like?
Create an Environment that allows errors,
failing is ok as long as you
Learn from your errors.
Imagining your success is easy. Before you live your dreams you need to dream your dreams! Think positive in what you want to achieve and apply SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, Time-based) goals. When you start working for a goal and you think that it is unachievable and it is likely that you fail then you will fail. Imagining your success is essential for your success, it not only motivates you to reach your goal it also reminds you how good you will feel when you finally made it.
Creating an Environment that allows you to fail might be harder. The way I am doing it (and currently really applying it) is to have a Plan B. That sounds easy but it isn't. It shouldn't be any Plan B that is an unattractive and ugly option. No, it needs to be a Plan, that is almost as attractive as Plan A (if you find out after some time that it is even more attractive, there you go, then you have a new Plan A). Plan B needs also to be thought-through in advance. Not really planned yet, as you still have enough to do with Plan A but carefully thought-through and checked if it meets the SMART requirements. When you are a really careful planner then you might already have 1 or 2 options for a potential Plan C in your sleeve.
Learning from your errors is probably the hardest part. First thing you need to do when you fail is to make an exhaustive Reflexion of your work. Don't look for cheap excuses like "I was sick" or anything. Failing isn't just because of one reason. When you fail in reaching a goal, then there were several reasons not only one. Try to find the crucial points in your decision and preparation process that ultimately influenced the final outcome. Failing also allows you to reconsider your whole target. After you failed at something and before your get up to try it again, ask yourself the questions: Do I really want this? Is all the work really worth it? If your answer to both questions is a clear "Yes!!", then you should go for a second round.
When you go for a second round, you have a few advantages over the first round, because you already know the way, you gained more experience in whatever you did and you, yourself, are more mature. You already have a new Plan A (your old Plan B) and you are ready to go for it.
In order to digest my initial failure from which I still suffer ;-), I decided to develop a proper Plan B a little later. I also built a fallback-solution into my (now) Plan A which can be considered as Plan B. I already started my preparations for achieving my final goal and I found out that I like Plan B actually better than I liked Plan A, because due to the additional time that I now have, I can do a lot more things, for which it was too late when they came into my mind at the Plan A preparations.
I also see my failing as an epic failure just at the right time. When you had a lot of successes you may think that everything works automatically, which it doesn't (Yes, again a case study of myself) and you might need to do some more work to achieve your goal (What an epiphany).
Finally I want to remind you that a failure, a disaster or whatever is never a step back, but at least one step forward. Not necessarily into the right direction but obviously it was a step forward. Also keep in mind that not only taste is in the eye of the beholder but also success and failure.
- "Success is, getting up once more, than you fell down."