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Did you know that Thomas Alva Edison failed more than ten thousand times before he successfully made the lightbulb work? Ten thousand failures. If he had a fear of failure and given up because of this, he would not have been able to do it. He said “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work”. It was but mere feedback to be considered while he tried something else. For him failure was not an option.
Each time something does not work the way you wanted it to, is that a failure? One definition of failure is lack of success, but is lack of success the first or second time that you try to do something mean it is a failure? Not necessarily. Thomas Alva Edsion would have been a miserable failure considering that he failed ten thousand times.
This article discusses how failure can be used as feedback to achieve your objectives. In fact, it will probably be some of the best experiential learning that you can get. When something you did does not work, it is not a failure. It is just not the best step to have taken. This simply means that you now have to figure out what is the better step. Then work on it. What if this step also does not work? Again you get back to thinking and strategizing. Why did this step fail? How different must your next step be to make this work?
The very act of looking at each faiure as a feedback will change your outlook to handling the issue at hand. It does not mean that you may not feel bad about it. It is just that you will be able to replace this feeling by working on what is the next step to take. Instead of beating yourself up over how things worked out, you just get on with the next action to be taken.
When failure is treated as feedback, it becomes one of your best tools for improving. It provides input for error correction. If everything worked well, the learning is minimal. You know how it works in one set of circumstances. You may be misled to believe that you are an expert at this when, in fact, there may be a lot more finer points to be learnt. Not suggesting that you keep failing to learn. Celebrate the successes, but if failure hits, just learn from it.
It is important to have a mechanism so that you are able to detect signs that may indicate that a failure may occur even before it does. Saying that failure is feedback does not mean that you wait till things fail before you start learning from it. First step is to be clear as to where you want to arrive. Write down the steps that are required to arrive at your destination. In your plan, identify checkpoints. They are to help identify if you are heading in the right direction. If you find that you are going off in a tangent, then do an error correction to the path that you are taking. With these continuous adjustments, the chances of failure are reduced.
Next important thing to know is that you are not a miserable failure if you abandon something that does not have the value that you initially thought it had. It is important to identify under what circumstances you would want to abandon whatever the project you are working on. The other possibility that can happen is that you find that your objective may expand or change for something better and sometimes bigger.
For example, contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison didn’t “invent” the lightbulb. He improved upon a 50-year-old idea. While many people had worked on it, no one had developed something that could be used for practical home use. Thomas Edison went on to invent an electric lighting system that contained all the elements necessary to make the incandescent light practical, safe, and economical. While Thomas Edison is known for the lightbulb, did you know that to make it work, Edison actually had to invent a total of seven system elements that were critical to the practical application of electric lights as an alternative to the gas lights that were prevalent in that day? Failure was not an option for him.
There are also ways that you can gain more knowledge from other people’s failure, meaning the experience they have gained. If you are working on a project, there may be available “lessons learnt” from previous projects. Go through them. Learn from books. Access the internet. You will be surprised at the extent of knowledge that is available for free in the internet, including articles, forums and blogs.
Treat each failure as an opportunity to learn. Use this desire to learn to overcome your disappointment. You will have no time to be disappointed if you are working on your next possible action. Just do it. You will soon find yourself treating each of this as just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. You just need to figure out how to fit it in to get the big picture.