Fail Better


Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  Curly Howard said something similar with a little less eloquence: “If at first you don’t succeed, keep on suckin’ ‘til you do suck seed.”

Whether you are a revered inventor or just a common stooge, the theme of success from failure has undoubtedly been drilled into each and every one of us since the moment we could understand the concept. Perseverance, persistence, fortitude, resilience, determination. These are adjectives commonly associated with the idea of “Try until you succeed.” It is very true that you do need those characteristics to increase your chances of success. These descriptors, though, belie the path to success.

The place where many of us get stuck during the process is how to recover and move on from multiple failures. We know with many of our endeavors that failure is an option and in some cases, it is almost automatic. What we can lack in those moments following our shortcomings is that WHAT NOW moment. You know that you did not meet your goal AGAIN, and the rah-rah of doggedness and resolve is not helping you get back on the road to success.

How does one right the ship after failing to find the right course so many times? How do we fail better?  Consider these thoughts:

Is this goal, first and foremost, REALISTIC and ATTAINABLE?

We all shoot for the stars. That’s how some of the most fantastic inventions, theories and literature are created. However, sometimes we aim just a bit too high, too soon. Consider backing down, and setting more reasonable and smaller checkpoints that aligns with the bigger picture and your ultimate goal.  A few of those smaller items met makes the finish line that much easier to attain.

Is there an error in the process?

Are you completing the steps in the correct order? Are you completing each step correctly? Often times, if you have missteps or complete items out of order, that is where the failure occurs. Make sure the steps you are taking are being done properly, and in the right sequence.

Is there a control for which you did not account?

Did you forget a control in your plans? Make sure you go back and adjust your efforts to factor in those missing piece. That information could be the reason you are not reaching your results.

Is there an error in communication?

Are you relying on others to complete certain parts of the goal? Are you SURE they have the correct information and instructions to complete the task/action? Sometimes, bringing your team back together to discuss the process will show that not everyone understood what needed to happen.

Is there an outlying variable you cannot control?

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try and how much effort we put into our actions, there are simply things that we cannot stop from affecting our outcome. Now that you have seen these feral variables, consider re-structuring to account for those uncontrollables.

Those are just a few factors that could be getting between you and your desired effect. The only inexcusable failure is thinking that failure will not occur. We must always prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. That starts with realizing that it is not the end of all creation if we do not attain our goal within the first try.

As Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried.  Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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