Reclaiming failure is about owning failure – making failure work for us instead of being something to fear or avoid. By understanding how failure works, and talking through tactics for changing our relationship with failure, we can learn faster, grow more, and achieve things we might not have even attempted before.
The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair. — Douglas Adams
From children to men we cage ourselves in patterns to avoid facing new problems and possible failure; after a while men become bored because there are no new problems. Such is life under the fear of failure. — Luke Rhinehart
He believed in himself, believed in his quixotic ambition, letting the failures of the previous day disappear as each new day dawned. Yesterday was not today. The past did not predict the future if he could learn from his mistakes. Daniel Wallace
The fairly recent popularity of books like Angela Duckworth’s Grit (@angeladuckw)and Carol Dweck’s Mindset (@mindsetworks) reflects our collective desire to be boot-strappy, strong people who can make it through tough things, and grow, change and be better. The optimism found in these volumes is inspirational for sure – and we need grit, and a growth mindset to be successful in life.
However, just hanging in there and believing that you can change (I’d add those up to equal something that’s roughly like “perseverance”) isn’t enough to turn failure into something truly useful. Those are both super valuable things to have in your toolset, and may likely be necessary components of reclaiming failure in our lives and work. However, there’s at least one more thing we need to bring to the table.
Mindfulness is what connects us to our failures. It’s what brings progress to the iterations of our life. Mindfulness is what helps us to recognize the gap between where we are (our failure) and where we want to be (the goal of our next attempt), and provides direction for the change that we believe is possible. So Grit, plus a Growth Mindset, plus the Mindfulness to see our own shortcomings in the light of day equals the ability to fail, own it an make progress as a result, propelling us forward toward better versions of ourselves.