There’s No Failure, Only Feedback
“What does this mean?” you might be thinking. “Of course there’s such a thing as failure, I have experienced it!”
Well, of obviously and factually there is this thing called failure if you choose to look at your experience in this way. If you do, please remember that the concept of failure is not a real, physical thing in the real world – it’s what some academics call a ‘construct’, its the name we give our mistakes, something that’s made up by the human mind. As Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”.
It’s a particular way of labelling certain events, one of many possible ways.
Since it’s our minds that have come up with the concept of failure, I think we have the right to ask how well this concept serves us. It turns out that it isn’t that helpful. In the context of evaluating your own actions, or those of people who report to you, it’s actually harmful.
Let’s say you try out some new action or new way of doing things, and it doesn’t work as you had hoped. If you think “that failed”, you might also think that you failed. From there, it’s only a short step to thinking of yourself as a failure. And once you think of yourself in those terms, what are you going to expect to happen the next time you try something new?
It’s much more useful to think of taking a new action in terms of an experiment. You try something out. It either works as you want it to, in which case great, you can keep doing it; or, it doesn’t work as you want it to, in which case you have gained valuable feedback from your environment, learn and do something different.