Failure is not a swearword

Sep 8, 2021 | Work


When I worked in the corporate world, making a mistake and failing was not an option. I felt like I had to be two steps ahead of my peers. Have the ability to read the minds of my seniors. And be the shield between my team and our leaders. Failure was not acceptable.

I look back at my time now, with wiser eyes and having experienced the world on my terms, realising how limiting that environment was. Yes, I accept the part I played. But I also acknowledge that it was part of the culture and not just my imagined reality.

The truth is if we’re not careful we can live by this rule in life generally, ‘failure is not an option’, which also means accepting the consequences as well. Living by this rule of not failing puts unnecessary limitations on us. We’re accepting living life means wearing a straightjacket to stop us from trying anything new in case we fail.

If this were the case, we wouldn’t dare experience new things unless the outcome was certain.

Just imagine how different our world would be if the innovators hadn’t felt inspired to innovate, just in case they failed! Would we still be living in caves?


So, how often do you practice failing?

I hope the answer is daily.

When you fail you are being given a great gift. The opportunity to learn. The opportunity to grow. The opportunity to try again but knowing a little more.

But in life, we are conditioned and accept that failing is bad. Failing means we’re substandard. Failing means we’re no good. Failing means we should give up!

Well, that is nonsense.


The only time failing doesn’t serve us is if we don’t learn from it and, more importantly, then don’t do something with that learning. It’s like insisting on banging your head again a brick wall and expecting a different result every time, other than pain!

I actually remember the first time I failed and it really meant something to me. It was my piano exam. It felt horrible. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the same year I failed my clarinet exam as well. At that point, I could have just given up and accepted that the universe was trying to tell me something.

But instead, and very maturely, I accepted my failing and consciously tried to understand what went wrong. Why had I not passed? What could I have done differently? I was in middle school at the time, so obviously, this was after a period of me stewing and thinking how unfair life was.

Things do go wrong and making mistakes have never been comfortable for me, I’m a recovering perfectionist by the way, but I’m practicing getting used to it. And not only that, I’m finding the positives in every situation as well as learning.

Here is what I’ve learnt so far.

There is no problem

We have the power to give meaning to the eventual outcome of what we’re doing. It’s that simple. We get to decide. Whether you pass or fail, something is only a problem if you decide it’s a problem. It could be that you need to take an alternative path.

It’s about growing

I like to challenge myself. Try new things. Get involved in new projects. Learn new skills. As it’s all new, of course, I’m not going to know how to do it from the start. It takes time. I will stumble. I will fall over. But that’s part of the learning experience.

Take imperfect action.

I hate making mistakes but if I waited until everything was just so I would never get out of the starting blocks. It’s better to take imperfect action and get moving then decide to stand still until everything is in place. By that point the race will have finished and where will you be?

Coaching, Great, self care

Just say yes and try

Life is there to be experienced and I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s a case of just saying yes and then figuring out the how. Plus saying yes and knowing there is a deadline is the motivation needed to move things on. Becoming stuck by the fear of failure and the unknown is paralysing but saying yes to opportunities can be scary but also liberating.

Trial and error is best

What has stayed with me more often than not is where something has not gone according to plan and I’ve made mistakes. But I’ve also learnt the most from these events and because of it I’ve come back with something even better the next time.

So I encourage you to be brave and say yes to failure. Say yes to trying new things to see where it will take you. And to say yes to learning and growing. The world is waiting for you to experience it. 

I invite you to embrace failure and instead of working against it, work with it.


Do you know where your next failure is?


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