When I’m asked to introduce myself, I often start by saying:
“Hi, I’m Udo, and I’m a serial failure”.
It’s a nice icebreaker, but I am not lying or trying to make a shocking statement. It’s the truth.
In this article, I want to challenge how we look at and treat failure and how this can result in an inability to assess constructive acts.
The staging of failure
We all have an issue with how we cognitively perceive failing. Society struggles with whether failure is needed, good or bad.
In the modern academic & business world, we hold aloft statements celebrating failure as an integral part of success.
“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” ― Oprah Winfrey.
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” ― John F. Kennedy.
“Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ― Nelson Mandela.
We tend to hold these short phrases aloft yet rarely give a moment to the conundrum they raise. Then there are the teachings that tell us how not to fail:
“Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” — Albert Einstein (although possibly a misquote)
I hear management icons and social commentators often spout variations of the above quote almost monthly.
The quotes highlight a common underlying trait. They all propose that failure is unwanted rather than a necessity.
The term “failure” carries a final, negative connotation that we need to re-examine. Unsurprisingly, a synonym lookup exposes words with comparable intents.
- Missed opportunity
What is the consequence?