Why We Need to Fail


Have you ever tried your best to avoid failure and failed anyway? Sometimes avoiding it may be the biggest failure of all.

Shorter Days
I remember sitting in the hard plastic chair in Mrs. Donson’s room many years ago. I had my work supplies on my desk that chilly winter morning. I was in the 5th or 6th grade and we were talking about the seasons. The other students and I listened attentively and quietly, a norm for this large private school.

As I sat there, Mrs. Donson explained the different ways that the seasons affected our lives. There were so many obvious changes as we approached winter – the temperature, the effects on trees and plants, and more. Yet there was one change that threw me for a loop: shorter days.

Bug-Eyed Wonder
I imagine my eyes popped out of my head as I tried to figure this one out. “How does that work?” I thought. “Some days are less than 24 hours? Do they just take a few minutes away from each day? How do we know how long each day is? Who’s in charge of this?”

As my confused and misdirected mind tried to wrap around this concept, the confusion itself did something that made me live in this state of confusion for a long time to come. It made me sit in my ignorance, sheepishly avoiding a question that could have cleared everything up.

It did this because my confusion made me feel stupid. “What did I miss? Why does this make sense to everyone else? Isn’t anyone else freaked out that the whole 24-hour thing is a lie?”

Afraid to Fail
We hate to look stupid. Ironically, we would often prefer to be stupid than to look stupid. It’s often more important to us to keep quiet and seem like we know what we’re talking about than to ask questions and show that we don’t know something.

I sat with a misunderstanding for a long time to come because I didn’t ask a question. To a young kid, thinking of the wrong use of “day”, not as the time between sunrise and sunset, but as a 24-hour unit of time, is an understandable mistake. But because I didn’t ask a question, it took me awhile to understand what “shorter days” meant.

Instead of taking the right path and asking the question, I took the easy path and lived in ignorance. I was afraid to fail, and by letting fear guide my actions, I failed.

We Need to Be Ready to Fail
What would happen if we weren’t so afraid to ask? What would happen if we took the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the things around us that caused confusion? What if we weren’t afraid to look stupid? What if we weren’t even afraid to fail, if we knew we were making the right choices?

There is so much we don’t know and the more we are afraid to ask – the more we are afraid to fail – the more we miss out on learning something new. It may not always be easy. Sometimes we will look stupid. Sometimes we will fail.

But when we avoid doing what we should do to avoid looking stupid or failing, we have already failed. We’ve already limited ourselves. We’ve already taken a step toward ignorance. Instead, we need to run toward success with both arms wide open ready to embrace whatever difficulty we might find. We might occasionally look foolish, but we will be wiser, happier, and more successful.

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About the author

David is a father, speaker, blogger (obviously), and author of How to Create Amazing Presentations sharing the tools, tips, and techniques of the experts to make you an amazing presenter, 7 Steps to Better Relationships built on the stories and lessons on this blog with seven easy steps to help you maximize your interactions with the people you care about most, and The Man in the Pit to help you care for loved ones struggling with depression.

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