Today I Give Myself Permission to Fail #atozchallenge

Letter FThis is it, one of the major, if not The Big Kahuna of permissions.  At least for me.

No one sets out to fail. It is ingrained in us from birth that we should strive to succeed. Our parents, spouse and employer all reinforce this notion by rewarding us if we succeed. The extrinsic rewards for success are many, praise, love, respect, applause, money and validation to name a few. As a result, we spend a lot of time and energy avoiding failure. Exactly what constitutes failure is up for debate, something to consider next time you reach for a Post-It note.

But let’s start with the notion that failure is the situation where despite your best efforts you have not met your own objectives or that of someone else who is important to you. Let’s face it, it is bound to happen at some point in your seventy plus years above ground. Despite the best of intentions, we are all human. Witness politicians who we vote in to succeed and who so often fail.

What we are not successful at doing as a society is teaching our children and ourselves how to deal with failure or that sometimes you have to first fail to succeed. This focus only on success fosters a dangerous form of perfectionism and ignores the importance of resilience. Further, if we are taught to succeed at any cost, we are indirectly taught that it is permissible to push others down in our quest.

Michael Jordan famously said the following:

Michael Jordon - failure

What if Michael Jordan didn’t have the resilience to get back on the court after each of those 26 times or spent all of his time after those 300 games in self-flagellation?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been to the self-flagellation shop to buy a T-shirt over something relatively minor. I’m now done with buying any more of these T-shirts, firstly I have them in every colour and they are now out of fashion. Fear of failure no longer has me in its power, because I know I have to learn the lessons from failure a dozen times to succeed the once. Self-deprecation is a wonderful tool in the fight against this fear and it will serve me well in my second act.

Ego, you have a lot to answer for and I’m slowly putting you in your place.  And with this comes a huge relief. Relief in knowing that trying to control a succesful outcome is often futile, particularly if it depends on other people and being able to channel that controlling energy in a whole lot of other more constructive ways. For too much ego and fear of failure go hand in hand. How ironic is it that I had to fail many times to understand that?

Lincoln failure

Thanks Abe, for the most part I AM content and understand that failing is a part of trying and in particular, trying something new.

Not trying or not doing simply because of the prospect of failure? Make mine a double!

Double faceplam

Today I give myself permission to fail

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

35 thoughts on “Today I Give Myself Permission to Fail #atozchallenge

  1. We cannot learn without them, our failures is the way we prepare to succeed! I bet you planned one post about success! 😉 (cheeky)

  2. First of all, I love the double face palm…lol. Failures give us the opportunity to start over, however I’m not sure this next generation understands that concept. They have an extreme amount of pressure surrounding them to be perfect.

    • Agreed, in fact I have seen some high achievers almost crumble when they were faced with what they preceive to be a personal failure. And more often that not the situation itself was not a failure.

  3. I particularly liked Lincoln’s comment. We need to remember that we learn and grow from failure. Our schools are so focused on “self-esteem” and rewarding kids for minimal effort they have forgotten that.

    • Agreed, I’m totally with you on that one. It’s a real eye-operner for some when they face the harsh reality that no-one applauds them just for turning up to work. Effort will be required.

  4. Yes it is the mindset and the heart which holds you back, failure if you have experienced it, draws me into a closer shell for fear of it happening again. Sooner or later I have to withdraw from my hiding spot and face the world, kick my self up the posterior and get on with it. We try- we fail- we forge on. If we don’t we shall never learn, if we never experience a fail and life is rosy 100% of the time…. well let’s face it that is living in fairy land, sooner or later we all will fail and it’s how we adjust to that failure that is our doing or undoing. Yay you Jude – you have me involved in these! (I may not make any sense but you got me)

  5. Very timely post for me because I was thinking about the concept of failure last night as I was stressing over not being as productive on my novel-in-progress as I’d like to be. “I can’t fail!” I said. Perhaps I’m not yet as liberated as Michael Jordan. 😉

    • And I bet the stressing isn’t helping the creative process any. Just wondering how you made the jump from not sufficient progress to possible failure? So much more water under the bridge and many words to go before that point, no? I’ve got faith in you, Carrie 🙂

  6. Thank you for this. As someone who grew up in an overachieving environment, I can be very hard on myself. However, as I get older, I find letting go is just a much more comfortable existence.

    • So glad to hear you’re becoming more conmfortable with the concept. The more people that talk about failing is a natural part of succeeding the easire it will be for those who come after. Unfortunately until recently it’s been taboo to even mention the F word.

  7. I love that Micheal Jordan quote. i used to have that poster as a kid. Wayne Gretsky has a similar quote that I really like too, his goes – “I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take”. I gave myself permission to fail today as well.
    Shawn at Reading Practice

    • That Wayne Getsky quote is to similar to the one about not winning every race you didn’t enter. I love it that you gave yourself that permission. Will be by your blog shortly.

  8. Thanks a lot, Judy! I love all your A-Z posts but this one in particular because I have always been a perfectionist – unfortunately.
    I would be interested in how you assess the Australian culture in relation to the US. As a European and as member of the extremely risk / failure avoiding Austrian culture my impression was that failure is more accepted in North America. So the “Silicon Valleys of X” (insert some middle European location for X) will not work.

    • I agree, I think some cultures promote perfectionist tendancies more than others. Scandanavia and Germany spring to mind. Australians have the reputation of being faily laid back, almost lazy and I think would be viewed as less perfectionist that the Americans. However, all the same there is pressure on our youth today to succeed and they needf to understand that failure is a part of success. Just like you can’t have light without dark, you can’t have success without failure.

  9. Thanks 🙂 I think I needed to hear that, especially the part about the self-flaggellation. It’s almost 4am and I’m currently awake and suffering with exactly that. I really need to learn to accept failure. And sometimes to accept that I’m not even responsible for succeeding at some things.

    • Gen, motherhood will give you the lesson in spades – especially at 4am! So many times I spent feeling totally inadequate at 3am in the morning clutching a crying infant. Advertisers pray on this fear of failure in trying to sell you products and services realting to children. The fact is there is no right or wrong, you just have to do your best with the tools and sleep you have at the time.

  10. This challenge gets more interesting every day. I believe when we are young, failure bruises and hurts the most because we haven’t learned patience yet. Patience knows to to deal with failure, understand it and improve on it.

  11. Permission to fail–I need to give myself this permission too. I know intellectually that’s how to learn, how to get closer to what I want to achieve. Emotionally, it still sucks. Working on my perfectionist tendencies, though. Humility too. I have improved over the years. Good post.

    • Thanks and we are all works in progress. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be suspicious of anyone appearing too perfect. The best leaders I have worked with acknowledge their failures and even use them to instruct others.

  12. Well said. I wrote a post quoting Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world. He said I succeed because I’ve failed. The best commencement speech I have ever read about was a successful person telling all of the graduates they will fail at something, sometimes more than once. Getting back up is the hard point. Great post, BTG

    • Warren Buffett is an interesting character. I love the fact that he is living in the same house he was living in before he became Mr Stockmarket. I’m interested to see where his latest investments in newspapers will take him.

  13. I suspect our laid back Aussie attitude is all illusionary…we just try to make it look that way. You make me laugh even when you’re being serious. Failure is just a step on towards success provided we don’t give up (your point about Michael Jackson being very valid). Failure is a chance to learn and to grow and to work out how things might be done better.

    Great post. Thanks!

    Pauleen at Tropical Territory
    A to Z 2013

  14. Frankly, failing can frustrate and make one fume… but, the outcome finally is fresh and festive when you see frustrations fade and you know you have learned lessons for a lifetime. Fantastic post! 😉 DAF

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