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Steps to success: fail faster

Learning from mistakes: How we pick ourselves up from failure determines how quickly we succeed

Interesting advice, and exactly what was recommended to a colleague of mine.

Lamenting a piece of work that had not turned out quite how she had planned, her highly esteemed mentor interrupted and said, “learn to fail faster”.

Failure? Yay! You tanked? Terrific!

These are not words we hear every day. Perhaps they should be.

There’s a scene in the Disney movie ‘Meet The Robinsons’ in which Lewis, a young inventor, has a monumental fail, covering everyone in peanut butter and jelly. Rather than get mad, the family cheered and whooped his wipeout.

“From failing, you learn. From success, not so much,” says one character. The Robinsons’s family motto (taken from a quote by Walt Disney himself) is “keep moving forward”.

We tend to make a big deal of our failures, just not usually in that celebratory way. Often the harshest judge of our mistakes is ourselves.

Failure. It even sounds like an unpleasant word. Like a lead weight. One which many of us are all too prepared to take up, pack in our already laden baggage and carry around to bring out every time we want to try something new, as a warning.

The problem is we can get caught up in the fear of failure itself. It is not so much that whatever we tried went wrong or fell flat, the fear seems to rest in what “not getting it right/succeeding” says about us.

There’s a perception that failure says we’re stupid, not good enough, unworthy, incapable, will never get it right.

This makes failure hard to accept and let go of. How often have I stayed in something far longer than I knew, in my heart, I should, simply because I didn’t want to fail?

Jobs (whole career paths), relationships; heck, even snack food: an $8 box of “health food” crackers that tasted like cardboard. Did I cut my losses and throw them away? Nope. I refused to admit I had screwed up — $8 after all! They stayed on my counter for a month. I told myself I’d eat them eventually (reminded whenever I saw them of my poor choice), until luckily the ants got them and they had to be binned. Afraid of even a grocery shopping failure.

But what does failure actually say about us? We’re human. We were brave, we got out there, tried something and we found one way not to do it … lots of other possibilities still exist. And by the laws of probability, it’s a numbers game and we’re statistically more likely to succeed the next time.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try our very best and give a concerted effort on ideas we truly feel are moving us in the right direction. Fear of success can be just as disempowering as a fear of failure (but that’s for another week!).

When things don’t go as we’d hoped and planned, can we pick ourselves up quicker, dust ourselves off and hop straight back in that saddle, learning from what went wrong and knowing we’re all that bit closer to our success? Fail faster and “keep moving forward”.

• Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapit tcoaching.com.