The value of failure

The more you fail, the faster you grow. Several smart people have said this and still it sounds like complete nonsense, right? How can you grow, become better if you experience more failures? I think the answer lays in how you fail and what you do with that experience.  Let me give you an example from my profession, Science.

Picture this: you are a researcher that is trying to find out which substance is interacting with your component “choice”. You have several substances (A, B, C, D) that are potential candidates. You start to plan an experiment to test interaction of Substance A because you hypothesize that this substance is the most likely to interact with your component. You have a planning phase; you purchase reagents, set a side time, design your experiment and execute. This takes you all together 2 days. Your experiment fails, substance A does not interact with the component.

You were wrong with your initial hypothesis and your experiment failed. Nobody likes to be wrong. It's embarrassing, it damages our esteem and hurts our ego. Besides that, you lost money, time and reagents.  You can bury the results and move on to the next component. What if none of them will work. It’s exhausting to have repeated failures and the feeling of embarrassment as well as the damage to our ego accumulates.

An alternative way to handle this situation would be to look for the good in your failure and talk about it. You are correct to say that this will not change the fact that none of the substances interacted with the component. It will also not bring you the money back nor will you get the time back that you spent on these experiments. So why do it? For your own mental health and the benefit to others. Failing is actually only embarrassing if YOU decide to let it be embarrassing. In this example there is for sure another researcher out there that is also testing interactions of substances with component “choice”. Your experience can teach that person where not to look. How is helping others and teaching embarrassing? Correct! IT'S NOT!

Perhaps one alternative way of thinking about failing is that we are simply eliminating ways how NOT to do something. We are still doing the same actions; we are just processing the results in a different way. You are however eliminating the feeling of wasting your time, money, reagents, etc. The same concept applies to Art. You invested time, money, effort, and creativity into your work but it just didn’t work out. You were still doing Art, it just had an unexpected outcome. You can think of it as an embarrassment that your skills are not as good as you thought, as a waste of time, money and so on....OR you can learn from it, share it, and talk about it. You are still performing the same initial actions. You are simply processing the outcome differently.

Look for the good in the things that you think went wrong and use that experience to become better. That’s how it works. The more you fail, the faster you grow.