Posted by: Admin | July 30, 2012

The Importance of Failure

Not as in failure to post for over a week – apologies for that if anyone missed me! Between you and me, I’ve been feeling a little tired and discouraged (don’t tell anyone – I need to keep up appearances). No, I’ve been mulling over the role of failure in both creative and business endeavour (not the whole time I’ve been away, you understand!). Fear of it paralyses so many of us. We have a great idea, then fail to act on it because we’re scared we’ll fail and end up not doing anything at all.

I meet a lot of people with brilliant ideas. In fact, was talking to someone just the other day who has a really interesting creative idea. She described it to me in some detail and I could see how it could work. She’d obviously spent a great deal of time and energy thinking it through and was enthused by the idea.

“Of course,” she concluded, “it probably won’t work.”

“Why do you say that?”  I challenged her, having just privately concluded the opposite.

She shrugged, and listed several obstacles in her way. I picked up each one and made her consider how they could individually be overcome. Will she press forward with her idea? I don’t know. Sometimes it’s easier to remain in the ideas stage, comforted by the possibility of success than take things forward and risk having that optimism taken away.

Hanging on to ideas

I met someone the other day who used to attend a writing group to which I belonged when I was published regularly. She used to turn up every month with the same idea – one book she was itching to write, but never quite finished. As you might have guessed, she still hasn’t finished it – but it’s still ongoing. Fear of exposing her magnum opus to the world and seeing it fail has meant it will probably never see the light of day, and she will never feel failure – nor the glow of success. If only she could recognise that that particular idea is a lame duck she could move on to something else. For as long as she holds onto it, fresh ideas will be blocked.

The Necessity of Failure

Son no.1 plays a strategy card game in which he is known as a good “deck builder”. He tells me he produces dozens of unworkable decks, but that if he didn’t keep putting them out there, he’d never produce gold. I admire him for recognising that at such a young age. He knows that he has to put aside fear of ridicule in order to grab glory and that sometimes you have to pick through a lot of dross to find that nugget of gold.

I have to take some rubbish pictures in order to progress. If I don’t experiment, I know I’ll get stale and complacent. I have to try new things before I know whether they will work and not be afraid to “waste” my energy. For experimentation is never a waste, particularly when it comes to creative endeavour. You have to keep the wheels oiled, the brain ticking over and be willing to take a circuitous route. And, just as importantly, you have to be prepared often to let go.

When I worked in the job centre, I spent hours in the evenings developing an idea I had to bring together skilled job seekers with unemployed school leavers. Ultimately, I concluded that the blocks to making that idea happen were too great – not least that I realised I really didn’t want to run this company. It’s a shame that I couldn’t pass my idea on to someone who could have made it happen. It was a good idea, and I had to work it through or it would still be crawling around in the back of my mind, blocking more workable ideas.

Anyway, I’ve probably rambled on for long enough. If you’re still with me, you probably have the stamina to see your ideas through! Watching the Gymnastics heats at the Olympics I can’t help but imagine the number of hours spent in repetitive training to get to the level of an Olympian. That’s what driving forward, not being afraid to fall off the barre, figuratively speaking, means. Embrace failure and you have the chance to succeed. Fear it, and you’ll stay where you are.

Right, I’m off to run on a treadmill. Staring my fear of failure right in the face! Happy Monday x


  1. I agree, it’s about having a go, putting your head above the parapet and accepting that it’s not always going work out. Sometimes it’s the things that break you that make you stronger.

    • Putting your head above the parapet is all well and good if it doesn’t get shot off, Gary! But I agree: it’s that willingness to face – and embrace – defeat that counts! Thanks for commenting 😉

  2. In my short life (73+ years) I have compiled several list of failures. Several because of the different categories, e.g. love, business, etc. Seems the score is about even up except that overall I am satisfied so perhaps I did better than I thought.
    I am happy to say that I have learned from my failures and not repeated them. I have tried the same endeavors over again using different inputs.
    I have never feared failure but neither does a cat which is why you occasionally see a flat dead cat in the road. When I say I cannot do something it is based on having a failure not on the lack of trying.
    My feelings about writing is that I am a success. Not because I’m good because I know ‘good’ and I ain’t it. It is because it makes me happier and sometimes gives me a real sense of satisfaction.

    • Good to see you again, Oldfool. You’ve got me thinking some more, as usual…

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