We live in a success worshipping world. We are constantly inundated with the overnight “rags to riches” stories that give us an impression that success is driven by innate talent and good luck. We applaud the brilliance of Van Gogh, but fail to credit the failures he encountered all through his life, or the many failed attempts that Wright brothers went through before they got the plane “Wright”! In truth, behind every “rags to riches” story is an even more impressive story of years of persistent hard work and failures.
Yet we fear failure more than anything? I am not recommending making mistakes deliberately, but becoming completely averse to making mistakes, is not only unreasonable it can be counterproductive.
The only solution that can guarantee a 100% success, 100% of the time is a formula. And there is no genius in following a formula. Jobs that resemble formulaic assembly lines will always pay meager wages. Genius happens when we think “out of the box”, which involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Creativity cannot flow in a restrained environment where making mistakes are unacceptable.
Big successes often follow big mistakes: Simply put, sometimes the best ideas come from the biggest mistakes. Did you know that the invention of Penicillin, Potato chips, Pacemaker, Post It Notes, Microwave ovens, X-Rays amongst many others were a mistake, or came out of an experiment that went wrong?
Failures impart life’s biggest lessons: If you learned skiing pretty late in life (like me) than you will understand that learning to ski is more about being prepared to fall first. Likewise learning to be successful is more about being open to failures. We all know of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Stephen King, Steve Jobs to name a counted few who failed many times before they eventually succeeded. In truth they succeeded precisely, because they persisted unapologetically despite their many failures. As long as you learn something from every failure, you are one fall closer to rising to those zenith heights you dreamed of.
The desire to be “correct” all the time is “wrong”: The bottom line is that nobody knows everything. We are all humans and learn from each other. The desire to be “right” or “correct” all the time can actually hurt more than help. Keeping one’s heart and mind open and ego small is the quickest way to learn and grow. Life teaches us important lessons that come camouflaged as mistakes. If you make one, be gracious enough to accept and create a plan to fix it. No matter what, never shrug responsibility for your own mistakes.
Being open to making mistakes is surprisingly liberating: A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters in order to overcome my fear of public speaking. I had practiced my debut speech a great deal but was very nervous that I would forget and stumble on the words. I overcompensated for my nervousness by putting up a false façade of confidence, so much so that I almost came across arrogant & rehearsed. Nobody knew that inside, I was shaking like a leaf. Fortunately, thanks to the constructive criticism that the other members of the club offered to me, I endeavored to do things differently the next time. I first embraced the idea of “letting go” and openly making a mistake. Being open to making mistakes actually allowed me to relax and just be myself. The moment I let go off my fear, I started to connect with my audience. I made eye to eye contact and talked not orated my speech. Needless to say, the response I got was far more warm and heartfelt, and to be honest it felt so damn good!
Taking Risks is a lot less daunting than we think: In order to grow you have to be open to taking risks. In all honesty we take far more risks in doing mundane everyday chores than we give ourselves credit for. Taking a shower involves the risk of slipping and falling, driving to work involves the risk of getting into an accident and so forth. Risks are everywhere, and a life completely averse to risks would probably require staying locked up inside a cupboard. On the other hand, taking risks does not necessarily mean going bungee jumping or jumping into a pool of water snakes. It simply means stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and devising new ways of doing things rather than the “tried and tested” tasks, it involves making educated decisions with the awareness that all your efforts could come to naught.
Failure only makes success taste sweeter: Nobody appreciates the value of success more that he who has tried and failed. In the words of Emily Dickinson:
“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.”
…And may I humbly add “Until they do!” Because as long as we persist, we will achieve success. So be open to thinking out of the box, taking risks and making plenty of mistakes. We are not meant to be invincible, hard-charging embodiments of perfection. We are all fallible humans and that’s what makes us special. We try, we fail, we persist and in doing so we become better versions of ourselves every day.
Inventions that were a mistake (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-10-inventions-were-made-by-mistake-2010-11?op=1
Successful People who suffered obstacles (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/25/successful-people-obstacles_n_3964459.html