Learn to fail (and don’t fail to learn)

For some of those that know me well, they know that I exercise often and I give myself some mini challenges. The latest being to hold a crow pose for a few seconds. So after each workout I attempt to do and hold the pose. The other day I was so chuffed as I managed to hold it and repeated it again and again… until I fell on the floor, hurting my knee and my shoulder. I failed and these are my key take-ways :

  1. “Objectivise the failure”. What I mean by this is state the failure in an objective manner. When I started to write this blog post I wrote “I fell LAMENTABLY on the floor”. The “LAMENTABLY” was not necessary and not objective. I could have said I fell on my forearms, or I fell. Full stop. Making an objective statement will help to take a step back from the initial (and legitimate) emotional state and be able to analyse and learn.
  2. Which leads me to point number 2. By failing what did I learn ? What did not work ?  In this case I knew I was tired, my arms and all my body were tired. The chances to succeed an additional repetition of the pose were low. 
  3. And on the contrary if I did succeed what made me successful ? What action(s) can I repeat to be successful again ? Was is just chance or a difference in the approach ? As far as crow pose is concerned, I would advise to look forward and not down. Big game changer for me 😉
  4. Be realistic on how you feel about failure. We are not prepared to fail, we are even sometimes scared to fail. For that reason we don’t attempt new things, we don’t go out of our comfort zone. We minimise our chances to fail and as a result our chances to succeed or at least to improve. What is more crazy than doing the same thing again and again and expect different/better results ? It is important to ask ourselves what are we scared of. What are the different options, what are the chances of success and the chances of failure ? and more importantly what are the possible consequences ? Which leads me to my last point.
  5. Prepare to fail. What my many years of horse riding taught me is actually that it’s not a matter of if you will fall (/fail) but a matter of when. Better be prepared for it. Learn to fail. Learn from peers, from past failures, experiment and attempts, etc. Integrate failure early in the design process. Be comfortable with it. As an example, learning how to fall is essential to success in sports like Judo. Judo is unique among sports and martial arts in the way it incorporates a scientific approach to the methods of falling called Ukemi.

Above are 5 easy steps to help be more comfortable with failure but especially to not take this as a “failure-full-stop” or as a “lamentable failure” but as an opportunity to learn. As Nelson Mandela would say “I never lose. I either win or learn”.

What were your biggest fail ? What did you learn from those ?

Happy failure and don’t forget to enjoy the personal growth journey !!

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