The “Right” Way to Fail
Nobody wants to fail. Failure is avoided at all costs. But, according to Jerry Useem, an editor at the Atlantic, there are three things to know about failure: 1) It happens. 2) It can be destructive in ways you have never imagined. 3) Believe it or not, there’s a right way to do it.
Do you agree with “Failure is an option”? Then, stay tuned to this blog sharing two big ideas about the right way to do it: 1) Separate the failure from the person 2) View failure as a learning opportunity.
Separate the Failure from the Person
Retracting the steps to understand what went wrong helps you to be less emotional and go straight to failure itself. The first step to deal with failure is to accept it. If we don’t admit it, there is nothing to talk about. So, you have to admit something has been proven wrong. Then, analyze the failure with the following questions: “What happened?”, “Why did it happen?”, “Is it because of you?”, “Or is it because of the situation?”
Attribution theory is concerned with how people explain the causes of behavior and events (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). The attribution literature commonly distinguishes between dispositional and situational influences (Harvey et al., 2014). The key to deal with failure is differentiating dispositional (internal such as personality traits) and situational (external) attributions of failure. If you make a dispositional attribution, you might think for example, “This went wrong because I did not do my best”. If you make a situational attribution, you will find causes from the situation. Because individuals are biased by the Fundamental Attribution Error, which causes one to overestimate the role of disposition (Ross, 1997), it would be much easier to differentiate self from failure if you make a situational attribution. But, even when you believe you failed because of what you did, failure can be told as something that happens to you and not something that you are.
Separate the failure from the person. Failure is something you did or that happened to you, not something that defines you.
Washing Disciples’ Feet
This reminds me of the story of John 13 about Washing Disciples’ feet
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
Dirt on our feet might be a failure that can be washed out. Failure happens but we are still clean. We need only to wash our feet because the whole body is clean. Separate the Failure from the Person!
View Failure as a Learning Opportunity
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
If we could learn from failure, it is not all bad. But the problem is we are often overwhelmed by the emotional aspect of failure. The way to bypass emotional aspects and go straight to the lessons that can be learned is to ask yourself, “What will I do differently tomorrow, to get me to the outcome I wanted?” Having concrete takeaways can help you continue to meet your goals and help others do so as well. Focus on a big goal: professional growth. This motivates people who’ve failed to try again.
We do not have to encourage failure. But it is an essential part of our lives. If it happens no matter how hard we try to avoid it; it is wise to learn how to respond to it and more importantly make the most out of it. Don’t take failures of what you did as failures of yourself. Take your failure experience as your growth opportunity. When we follow the right way to fail, we are more likely to get back up, move forward, try again, and advance.
Jerry Useem https://www.inc.com/magazine/19980501/922.html
Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Harvey, P., Madison, K., Martinko, M., Crook, T. R., & Crook, T. A.
Ross, L. (1977).