Do you remember taking your first steps? Of course you don’t. It’s a real shame.
Think about your child, your niece, your nephew or some baby you know. Imagine what it was like when they took their first steps. Their impression of a drunk college kid was spot on, dribble and drool included. With each trip and fall they were taking their failures in stride (strides probably not the best analogy, but you get it). With each attempt a new technique is tried. Some fail, some succeed, most are adorable. Pretty soon all of those failures and adjustments turn into one step, two steps, three steps and a full on walking baby. Before you know it, that same baby that wouldn’t pass a field sobriety test is sprinting around the house without a worry in the world.
All the stumbling, swaying, and toppling over made for some quality entertainment, but think of the lessons that we could learn from that baby.
Without each steps attempt and failure, the baby would have never learned to walk. It is literally a part of the process to allow the opportunity to trip and fall flat on their face. As adults, the “falling flat on your face” bit isn’t so literal anymore (except at weddings. Open bar, man), but the figurative sense of the phrase is something that seems to scare the shit out of most people.
“I don’t want to look stupid”
“I’m not good enough to even attempt it”
“I’ve failed before and I certainly didn’t like the feeling”
That last one is the piece I feel is most frightening about the fear of failure that runs through so many individuals veins: we have all failed before. Failure has happened to every single one of us. It is a part of this life that we live. Better yet, we’re still here! We made it through! .
Like it or not, that failure was a requirement in the process of becoming who you are today. When you failed, you persevered. When you failed, you got over it. When you failed, you grew. It is a requirement, and one we should embrace more readily.
We need to create a cycle of failing, learning and repeating so that we can continue to grow into the incredible people we were set out to be.
Unfortunately, some people choose to see this as a linear pattern rather than a cyclical one. Some would prefer to fail, learn from that failure, and then make sure they never fail again. They don’t want to feel that pain or taste that defeat. An emotional wall goes up, preventing any such experiences from happening again. This makes the pattern a one way, dead end street.
Let’s look at romantic relationships as a model for a linear vs. a cyclical pattern of failure:
Linear: George loves Vanessa. George is open and vulnerable with Vanessa. He trusts her with his life and with his heart. Vanessa cheats on George. George feels like a failure for not seeing it coming. He shouldn’t have trusted her as much as he did. George feels strength in knowing that we will never be duped by a woman again because he won’t be giving his trust away as freely.
Cyclical: George loves Vanessa. George is open and vulnerable with Vanessa. He trusts her with his life and with his heart. Vanessa cheats on George. George feels like a failure for not seeing it coming. Reflecting on the relationship, he understands that there may have been signs of who she really was. He understands that not all women are like Vanessa, and although he will be more aware when he falls in love again, he won’t let Vanessa’s actions effect how he sees his new lady. He has learned, but in entering his next relationship he will remain open and vulnerable to a woman who deserves it.
Notice that in the second scenario George isn’t actively seeking failure to repeat the cycle, but he’s not closing himself and afraid to love someone else just because he has gone through that pain before.
So many of us allow the linear patterns to run our emotions. This is in relationships, at work, in our health and fitness, etc. We fail, we learn, and we end it there. It stops when we “learn our lesson”. There’s so many more lessons to be learned and by shutting down and closing up we’re stunting our growth.
Would you stop your baby from continuing in their attempt to walk after the first stumble? Of course not. You would pick them up, give them some physical and/or emotional support, and encourage them to keep trying. you know that’s the only way they will ever learn to walk.
Do yourself the same favor. As you fail and learn, pick yourself up and let yourself be open to starting the cycle again. On the other side of each mistake is a lesson ready to be learned. You can choose to only learn one lesson and stop, or keep the cycle going and grow.
It’s okay to fail. Embrace it.