Fail and Fail or Fail and Learn?

Dec 19, 2023 07:19 · 674 words · 4 minute read


Recently, I took my daughter to the local playground for some one on one time. She is a force of energy and does everything to the absolute maximum of her capability. This playground has two playground sets, one for the smaller children, ideally for children aged one to three and one for bigger children, four and above.

In her typical style, she went straight onto the “big kid” equipment. This time, without her elder sibling she tried to cross a swing bridge, which shifts under your feet as you move across it and as you try to get off it at either side.

I took the time to just observe her from a safe distance, attempt to cross and climb off the swing bridge. In the next ten minutes, she failed eight consecutive times to climb off the bridge. Each time, I could see her change her approach, to get a different result. There was frustration building, but what was overriding that was a will to succeed. On the ninth attempt, she climbed up the ledge of the swing bridge and swivelled her head around to me with her beaming grin.

To her, failure is normal and part of her development. Without going through failure, she wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, smile, climb or eat. This moment forms one of many more in a typical day as a toddler.

Why do we avoid failure?

As we move through life into adulthood, people have an aversion to failure. They see failure as terminal, embarrassing and painful.

The prevailing culture doesn’t look fondly upon those who fail, and as a result, being social beings, we try to fit in. Naturally, this manifests into behaviours of not trying anything that one could fail in, never extending beyond your current boundaries.

Ironically, this is the biggest failure of your life and it’s potential.

Having this mindset and outlook will be terminal to growth, opportunities, evolution and meaning.

Failure, the most under appreciated gift

The other extreme of an aversion to failure, is the sub-culture of ‘fail fast’ and ‘fail often’. This culture celebrates failing, sometimes at any cost.

Failing and not learning is equally as limiting as not failing at all.

If we aren’t reflecting and observant in reviewing why something failed, and what actions we took or didn’t take, we’re missing the lessons that those experiences are teaching us.

Failure is meant to trigger strong emotions and feelings for our survival. Think of our ancestors being chased by predators. We’re genetically wired to strongly notice these experiences so next time we see that predator, we act with caution.

I can share that most of my personal growth has come from failure. Whether that be taking down a companies network, my car breaking down in the middle of a busy highway, or being made redundant, these failures are a gift to you to grow, if you are open to using those moments to learn and evolve.

If you dig deeper into any of your role models or people you deem successful in life, they will have had many seminal moments whereby they made the choice to fail and learn, rather than fail and give up.

Reframing failure

As mentioned above, failure is an inherit part of the human existence. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to read these words. For us to get to this moment, you and I have failed many times and learned many more to be able to have this interaction.

We shouldn’t be afraid of failure, rather we should be motivated to make sure we learn and become better for it.


Whether you seek to learn from failure, or fail at the same recurring events, both will come with discomfort. One can provide you with growth and greater fulfillment and one will lead to a slow decline and ultimately a life of regret.

Hopefully this post provides a small moment of reflection, to revisit your perception of failure and perhaps take on another way of thinking about failure.

Thanks for reading.