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Learning to Fail

Nature has taught us lessons of perseverance and ways to deal with failure. We have never heard of a river that stopped after hitting a rock. If it did, it will be confined to a lake and will never be converted into ocean.


We all have tried to stop an ant with finger in her path while she carried a piece of food. She never stopped, and always found her way, even at the risk of her life.


A spider never counts the number of times it fell down while making its web. It just continues until the task is complete.


A sparrow once tried to build a nest in my neighbor’s home to lay eggs. My neighbor threw away the sticks that the sparrow collected every day. Yet, the sparrow did not stop until her only option was to lay the egg without the nest.



This leads me to think that we did not know what failure was, when we were kids. We simply had a goal to learn to walk and we never counted the number of times we fell down. Our elders were in fact happy watching us fall and get up; they motivated us to keep trying until we finally learned to walk. This was not limited to just walking though. We were allowed to “fail” at everything in process to learn.


Well, then when did we start to fear failure? Mostly, during school, when exams were not taken to see how much we learned but to test our capacity to answer specific questions in specific ways. We started fearing failure, when parents and teachers started comparing our mark sheets with other students and our abilities were considered confined to those numbers.


We were not praised anymore to attempt to gain something; but rewards were based on the results. This resulted in self-loathing, nervousness, fear, and then losing the uniqueness that we had. Fear is detrimental to progress at anything.


Here is a way to deal with this scenario: Let us change the definition of failure again to the one we had in childhood. Failure is not about not being able to achieve desired results; it is about not attempting.


Thus, next time, if we fail to achieve something, we will reward ourselves for trying. We will learn from the attempt and attempt again. Let us resolve not to fear failure anymore.


Do not forget to motivate peers with a reward too when they attempt and do not get desired results. They deserve it to take a step towards learning!


Author: Viraj Vora, Master Trainer

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