Failure Judo: Fail on Purpose

Part 2 of the Failure Judo series.


I’m supposed to fail? On purpose?

Why in the world would anyone fail on purpose?

The answer to this can be found in sayings like “Its Bark is worse than its bite.”  The intent of sayings like this is to remind us that often, our fear of an outcome is worse than the outcome.  Unfortunately, the best way of discovering the impact of an outcome is to actually experience it.  On the other hand, however, when we do fail, we often discover that the thing we tried so hard to avoid, which messed with our heads and stole our concentration from the task itself, wasn’t so bad after all.

Now, before you go doing anything crazy, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Before you undertake anything, make sure that the consequences of failure aren’t going to be devastating, dangerous, or beyond the scope of what you are willing to accept.  

2. If you can, then take precautions to mitigate risk.  For example, a skateboarder trying a new trick might put on a helmet and protective gear.  A trapeze artist often uses a safety net for training in relative safety.

3. Once you have settled #1 and #2 above, go ahead and fail.  Don’t say you’re going to fail, and then try not to.  Go ahead and fail.  Time and time again, I’ve seen skateboarders who are new to a big ramp climb to the top, and simply slide down on their knees, or drop in on their skateboard and bail.  As soon as they do, they know the limits of the ramp.

By focusing your energy and thoughts on the failure – how it looks and feels, and how you can make it better for yourself – you can free yourself on the next attempt to focus on success.  The legendary Japanese Archer, Awa Kenzo, famously made his students fire at useless targets that were impossible to miss for four years before moving on to real targets.  The point of this exercise was to focus them on the process of shooting.  The placing of the arrow on the string, their grip, posture and so on.  Failing on purpose can have a similar effect — by removing the focus on the end product, we are free to focus on the process of what we are doing, which has the effect of …

…improving the end product.

Read the rest of the Failure Judo series.