01 Aug 2019

Hooray for failure! Six reasons why screwing up is something to celebrate.

The most resilient people are those who can mess up and bounce back. “Successful” people tend to be those who have the ability to recover and learn from failure. But yet so many of us fear failure. Perhaps it was how we were brought up, or the way we were taught in school. Or perhaps our working culture names and shames those that make mistakes. 

There’s a psychological explanation for why we’re averse to failure. Nobel-prize winning psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky found that the effect  of loss is twice as great as the gain from a win. This explains why we as humans go at lengths to avoid a loss or a failure. 

But there are many reasons why accepting and celebrating failure can ultimately help us to thrive: 

    1. Failure helps us to innovate and invent. According to Jeff Bezos, “Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.”
    2. Failure helps us to get better. BBC Radio 4 presenter Sarah Montague points out: “If you’re capable of banking experience and using it next time to make it better, it’s an experience worth having.”
    3. Failure allows us to unlock great potential. It might be a painful process, but many successful individuals wouldn’t be where they are today without having failed. As J.K.Rowling testifies: “It’s impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
    4. Failure can result in life transformations or redirections. Elizabeth Day, presenter of the podcast How to Fail”, shares how the “most transformative moments of my life came through crisis or failure.”
    5. Failure is an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to reevaluate and come back stronger. What we learn from failure ultimately makes the end result that much better.
    6. Failure enables us to be vulnerable. And vulnerability is the key to human connection. We can only really get close to someone if we allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable with them – and if they are vulnerable with us. Sharing our perceived “failures” allows us to build a compassionate and connected relationship.

Clearly we need to get better at failing, because it will ultimately make us stronger and more successful. So the next time you fail, count yourself lucky!