Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better
My daughter turned 14 in March. I had one of those epic mum moments where I dug out some old photo albums and started looking through all her baby pictures, wondering how fast time flies and wishing she wasn’t growing up this fast. I got to the photos of the time she was a year old. I remember we had taken her to New York City for her first birthday, back to the city where she was born. She had this beautiful dress on and we had a little party for her.
I was looking at the party photos and couldn’t help but remember that this phase in her life was all about walking. She would hold onto anyone and anything and just try to walk. I can’t tell you the number of times she fell, and the equal number of times she got back on and tried again.
If you have kids of your own or have nieces and nephews, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Falling, getting up, trying to walk, falling and repeat! Tedious, but it was done. I can guarantee that not one of our kids at that stage said to themselves – ‘Oh there, I’ve fallen again. I’m such a failure. I’ll never walk again.’ They just fell, got up and tried again till they walked and then ran! But my friends, as adults we are so worried about failing that we stop ourselves from achieving our dreams even before trying.
There is so much information out there on how not to fail and so many tips for success but I want to offer you something different. I want to help you reframe failure and show you how its OK and even good to fail. What most of us do, is we stop expecting so we never ever set ourselves up for failure. We keep our expectations so low. When we do this we are doing nothing but recycling our old lives and patterns over and over again.
Failure is a massive topic I coach on, so I thought it would be useful for my readers. Last week, I asked one of my mentees (lets just call her Maria) if she was willing to do a little exercise with me. Maria and I have been working together for over a year. Maria is smart, an amazing mum and runs her own business. Her biggest problem at the moment is stagnation in her business– there’s nothing wrong with stagnation, but you simply remain where you are. As her mentor and coach I tried working on some next steps and bigger goals to move forward but before even trying she asked me that one question I get asked so many times – “What if I fail?”
I’m also an NLP coach so I used a simple exercise called exploring submodalities to first determine and understand what failure really meant for Maria. When we use submodalties we explore the situation or experience using our 5 senses – visual (sight), auditory (hear), kinaesthetic (feel), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste). It’s detailed thought work where one can connect to the experience and exactly see, hear, feel, smell or taste… what in Maria’s case was failure. Using her learnings and thoughts that came up from this exercise, I asked Maria to reframe failure. And when she reframed failure she came up with the word learning.
My friends, reframing and seeing things from a different perspective or lens is very powerful and can bring a unique new energy to a situation or experience. As our session went on, Maria was able to see her ‘failures’ as learning opportunities – she understood that when something didn’t go as expected, she could use the learnings and apply them to move forward. So, instead of looking at failure as end of the world, she thought about it in a way that is more positive. Reframing helped her think of failure as something she wants to move towards instead of something that she wants to move away from. Golden Nugget: If failure is learning, then my friends why are you afraid to fail?
Over the years, I’ve made some epic fails personally and professionally. I could fill up pages writing about them. But with each epic fail came epic lessons for which I’m extremely grateful. I’m willing to fail everyday so I can learn. If I don’t fail, I won’t be motivated to move forward and stretch myself into unchartered territory.
So this week, I’m going to challenge you to write out 5 of your epic fails. Reframe your ‘failures’ and write out every lesson and learning you gained as a result of that ‘failure’. If your ‘failure’ prevented you from moving forward or taking further massive action, ask yourself if you are willing to do it now? Are you willing to lean into the unknown?
I’m going to leave you with this excerpt from one of my favourite teachers – Pema Chodron. Pema is a Buddhist monk, teacher and author. This is from her book – Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better. No one ever knows what is going to happen next. But these transition times—between something being set and things being uncertain—are times of enormous potential. Anything is possible. If there is one skill that is not stressed very much, but is really needed, it is knowing how to fail well. The fine art of failing. There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding. And whether we buy the hype or not, we all want to succeed, especially if you consider success as “it works out the way I want it to.” You know it feels good in the gut and in the heart because it worked out. So failing by that definition is that it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. And [failing] is what we don’t usually get a lot of preparation for. So fail, fail again, fail better. It’s like how to get good at holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart. Or how to get good at “welcoming the unwelcome.”
I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Founder of Live Authentic Coaching. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.