Although I grew up in Minnesota and then lived in Colorado for nearly 15 years before moving back home, I never learned to properly downhill ski until I was an adult. And learning then was difficult. I certainly wasn’t graceful at first. Or fast. I got passed by a lot of fearless kids on skis. And I fell. I fell a lot. And falling felt like failing.
But my husband, Jim, was patient and said something I’ve never forgotten: “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.”
To this day, when I think about trying something new and potentially failing at it, I remember what Jim said about skiing and I apply that same logic.
And I’ve never looked at failure the same way since. The process of trying something—but not always succeeding at it—is learning. In fact, “failure” is a word I don’t use much. Instead, I truly view “failure” as an opportunity to learn. However, for many people, a fear of failing often keeps them from even trying.
The fear of failure is a powerful force that leaves many of us feeling… stuck. As humans, we tend to prefer our comfort zone. But there’s a lot to learn in those moments of feeling defeat, discomfort, and failure.
And while failure is uncomfortable, the resulting lessons often lead to personal and professional growth.
If you’ve recently struggled with feelings of failure, remember that “failure” (aka learning) has its upsides.
1. Failure Builds Resiliency
To achieve success, we must become resilient. An average two-year-old toddler falls 38 times per day. Knowing this, should we encourage kids not to take the risk of walking because they will fall? Of course not! Falling is part of life. And the toddler’s instinct is to try again.
If you think you’ll succeed at anything new on the first try, you’ll be disappointed every time. However, if you face adversity with the right expectations and approach, you will build resilience and be empowered to keep trying.
2. Failing Keeps You Humble
When you have already found success, it can be easy to dismiss feedback or new ideas from others. However, when you experience failure, humility emerges.
And humble leaders make the best leaders. They understand they will not be the smartest person in every room. They also respect differing opinions, accept constructive feedback, and view mistakes as learning opportunities.
3. Failure Expands Your Knowledge
It took Thomas Edison more than 10,000 attempts to develop the lightbulb. When asked how it felt to fail, Thomas responded, “I have not failed. I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
What if he had stopped after the 9,999th try?
We gain powerful knowledge from failure, which can lead to alternative solutions and eventual success.
4. Failing Ensures Growth
Failure is necessary if we are to grow and develop. The trials we face are teachable moments and the lessons we learn bring a new level of maturity and personal growth.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable to fail. But in doing so, we walk away with firsthand experience that will help us solve problems in the future.
Failing is tough, but it doesn’t have to mean defeat. I won’t be winning any skiing gold medals anytime soon, but over the years I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become a competent skier. Plus, I’ve had a lot of fun! If you can learn to appreciate “failure” and the lessons it teaches, you will know success! (And maybe even have a good time along the way.)
Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)