The Fun of Failure

This is a guest post by the lovely Michelle of Wicked Whimsy , who writes about creating the life you want and deserve. She just launched Take Back Your Creativity, e-book designed to help you integrate your creative life and your daily life, overcome more of your creative blocks, and increase your creative output.

I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In case you’re unfamiliar with the book, the idea is that the author decided that she wanted to dedicate a year of her life to actively becoming more happy and then set out to do so. The book is a chronicle of that year. It’s worth reading as a whole, but the most useful & applicable idea I got out of it was this: the fun of failure.
Gretchen writes about how many of her resolutions required her to push herself and she realized that one of the reasons she was so reluctant to do so was her paralyzing fear of failure. However, having more success requires accepting more failure, and so to counteract the fear, she told herself that she enjoyed the fun of failure.
When I read those pages in the book, I literally had to stop reading to sit with this idea. That thought would have never in a million years occurred to me!
Because I hate failing. Hate with all-capital letters. I know that most people don’t exactly enjoy it, but the very thought of past failures is enough to make me blush and feel embarrassed (as well as slightly nauseated). This is a problem since, as mentioned above, you can’t succeed without trying new things, and that necessitates the occasional failure.
After reading Gretchen’s thoughts on failure, I decided to make a few changes in that area of my own life:
  • Rethink how I feel about failure. I’m not sure if I can convince myself that it’s fun (although it can’t hurt to try!) but failures are always learning experiences, and I do love learning. So that’s what I’ll keep in mind when I fail – it’s just another chance to learn.
  • Let myself fail. Learn to quit when it’s necessary, before wasting lots of time and effort on something that’s not going well & isn’t meant to be – just because I refuse to fail. When I do that, it usually doesn’t work out anyways, so I might as well fail early and move on to something else.
  • Learn to joke about past failures. Embarrassing secret: I failed my driving test twice before I finally passed it. (I get really nervous with people looking over my shoulder, okay?!) If I can joke about past failures, that helps disassociate the word “failure” from something really negative for me, which means I can learn to roll with future failures.
This year, I’m going to let myself be someone who can learn from failure without feeling horridly ashamed and embarrassed about failing. I’m going to let myself try new things and not care if they turn out 100% or not, and instead take joy in the fact that I stretched myself and tried something. (And learned from it!)
How do you react to failure?

16 Comments

Kim

Great post! 🙂 I've recently just started to realise that failing means I'm actually attempting things, so really failing is a good thing.

Reply
Bethany

I realized a few years ago that I had never failed at any large project I had taken on. It made me realize that I didn't ever do anything outside of my comfort zone. I didn't start anything unless I knew I could successfully finish it. Now when I fail it actually makes me a little bit happy because I knew I was pushing myself. Fear of failure was holding me back from doing so many awesome, hard things!!

Reply
Anonymous

Yeah, I have more of a problem with the fear of success – that no matter how hard I try, I might just be sub-par. So I don't bother trying at all and wallow in loserhood and stuff like that. Some of my friends see this as a fear of failure. I'm trying to reconcile the 2 and grow out of fearing things in itself.

Reply
ilana

I love this. I definitely have always been afraid of failing or doing something the "wrong" way, ever since I was a little kid. There was a brief stage of my life where I got over that fear and branched out and tried new or challenging things regardless of their outcome, but it seems that I've regressed back to my childhood state of fear.

Thanks for giving me some examples on a better outlook for my not so successful attempts. And I too failed my driving test twice before getting my license! Eeek!

Reply
Diary of B

Its so funny is I just started reading the Happiness Project and that idea stuck with me too. Today I have an interview for an internship tonight, and I'm so nervous. But if I fail I guess its just a learning experience (though, yeah, still not fun).

Reply
Kate Hooker

Oh my goodness I NEEDED to read this today! We don't talk much in our family about failure, and as such, we all do everything in our power not to fail–and even when we clearly have, we work like hell to make sure nobody knows we've actually failed. Reading this today has been like a big giant lightbulb has gone off. I look at how this refusal to acknowledge failure has had an impact on many in my family, and sadly it's either led to a really pretty boring, close-minded life, or one where there is such hurt and pain below the seemingly calm surface it's heartbreaking.

I went to a conference this weekend and was so inspired to do great things, but the whole time, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking–yeah, that's great and all, but what if I don't accomplish those things, is it worth risking failure? The resounding answer is, of course, HELL YES it's worth the risk!

Thank you so much for this post. Like I said, I NEEDED this.

Reply
Square-Peg Karen

Humor is the BESTest for learning to live with (and even honor) failure!

I often write with humor (telling stories about myself or others- almost always failure stories of some kind – or, at least stories with less-than-expected results) –

and I know that part of the reason I do this is to lessen the shame we often get slammed with in life (the feeling of being not enough or too much – or both) – to share a "me too" kinda thing…

but your description of how you hate failure – and then your paragraph on joking about past failures opened my eyes even wider about how failure impacts us – and why I love to read (and write) antidotes to taking failure so negatively.

Thanks so much for this wonderful post!

Reply
Stylish Thought

Really great post Michelle and congrats on the launch of the ebook. I failed my driving test twice as well, so don't feel so bad. Fear of failure is more common that we think, but I think pushing through it is what makes us truly successful.

Reply
melle

I guess that depends on the type of failure! if it's something I have to repeat until I succeed, I'd rather not fail the first time.

But sometimes failure comes as a relief. To be rejected for a spot in a gallery means I don't have to go there and do business.

To not get a callback for a job means I don't have to have a scary interview!

To hear that the baker's market is cancelled means I don't have to puzzle over the details, or commit to nine weeks of scary work!

Reply
Michelle

HAHA! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who failed their test twice! That makes me feel much, much better 😉

Thank you for all of the comments, everyone! I'm very happy that y'all liked the post, and wish you luck in your future failures.

Reply
Silvia

I don't like failure either. But like you said, if you don't fail at something you won't learn anything. And I love learning as well. So I (try to) take the failure part for granted. Much bigger & beautiful things can come of it.

Reply
The Curious Cat

Very good post – failure is an important part of learning and achieving – lots of successful people failed before they achieved. You learn a lot… it is worth trying to bear this in mind and not let the fear of it paralyse you…xxx

Reply
Rachael

I loved this post! I knew when I was 16 that I wanted to become an English teacher, which I worked very hard to do. Then, three years in, I quit. I'm one of the 20% of teachers who leave the profession within the first five years. It's good to know that there are a lot of us out there, but it still feels like failure, even several years later! But you know what? I have a whole lot of other options, and I'll be able to figure out, eventually, what I really want to do with my life, instead of sticking to a goal I set before I knew what life was like. Now, if only someone would create a company that would pay me to read awesome books and then talk about them with reasonable people!

Reply
thelifeitrulylove

I came across your blog via Much Love! After reading this post I have much love for your blog. Failure has been my greatest teacher & brought with it my greatest joys. Accepting failure can be freeing. It frees us to change directions. It frees us to reflect on our motives. It frees us to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. Failure makes us face ourselves at our weakest moment. Failure teaches us to love ourselves despite the fact that we have disappointed ourselves.

Reply

Leave a comment