The Gift of Failure

When doing scientific research, we expect to fail. In fact, we write the likelihood of negative findings into our protocols and plans. We expect things to not always work as we think they might, and we accept that we may not prove what we set out to prove.

In the scientific community, we depend on complete transparency when we fail. We depend on it to advance science, to help people, and to find the best treatments and drug therapies. We publish our failures and we learn from them.

We don’t get upset when we fail in research. We see it as equally important to figure out what doesn’t work as what does. We reevaluate and move forward.

Wouldn’t it be nice if failure in life was similar?

We have this unrealistic expectation that we won’t fail. We think that we shouldn’t ever fail, so we stay in our comfort zone where we know we won’t.

And when we are #braveenough to try something new, difficult, or risky, and we happen to fail, we stop.

We look around us…did anyone see us fail?

We feel ashamed, and we regret trying.  We beat ourselves up.

It’s bananas.

Truly. Bananas.

Instead of seeing our failure as a necessary step in our growth process, we sulk like every wrong turn is a major snafu. Instead of embracing our failure as a lesson that will bring us closer to what will work, we give up. We ease back into the comfort zone, and we stop innovating, challenging, creating, and advancing.

We settle.

We listen to the naysayers. Some people love to see others fail.

Can you imagine if every scientist tried one trial, one experiment, and when it failed, gave up?  Or better yet, failed, and didn’t share the failure? We share failures all the time in the scientific community; we depend on learning from other’s failures.

If we didn’t expect to fail, we wouldn’t have electricity or computers or cars. We wouldn’t have immunizations or life-saving antibiotics.

The older I get, the more I embrace my failures. The more I expect to fail, and I’ve learned something important…I need to share my failures. Sharing my failures with others is helpful. Not only do I get to hear advice that may help me not make the same mistake again, but it also helps validate others and encourages them not to quit the task at hand.

Here’s the thing: when we share our failures, we build resiliency.

In ourselves and in others.

When we are transparent with our failures we are better mentors, teachers, and colleagues. We also become more encouraged and emboldened to try again.

If you are an innovator, or a mover and a shaker, if you are a creator, a leader, or even if you are the leading expert in whatever you do, you are going to fail.

Expect it. Share it. And then keep going.