An Optimistic View of Failure

An Optimistic View of Failure

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a new project. I’m getting back to my creative side and working with some new mediums.  Taking the idea from my head to a finished piece is both exhilarating and frustrating. Sometimes a technique works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes a color or finish is just what I envisioned and sometimes it is less than pleasing. Sometimes it isn’t what I anticipated and is even better. As I struggle with the right amount of material and the right choices, I find I am disappointing in the results – it’s like making a recipe that sounds delicious, but ends up not so good.

But I haven’t thrown in the towel! As tempting as it might be to pack away my supplies and move on to something “safe”, I’m soldiering on with an optimistic attitude. Each less than perfect attempt is a learning experience. It is one more piece of the puzzle that will result in success. Persistence pays off. I am learning about technique and tools and process. I’m growing and I will bloom.

Did you ever meet someone who if they aren’t the best at something, they won’t do it again? Or someone who won’t play a game or sport if they don’t win the first time they play? I think they lose twice – and the loss of the opportunity to  learn and grow and achieve is far worse than the first loss.

“Failure” has so much to teach us if we rise to the challenge and see it as a positive things – a motivational thing. Failure can spur us to learn, re-evaluate, problem-solve. Sometimes the biggest lesson from failure is to show what we don’t want. (I think this is particularly true of relationships). Sometimes in overcoming a failure we encounter someone or something that adds an extra layer of richness to our lives – a coach, a mentor, a new friend, a new direction, a new insight.

This happened to me a few years ago. I won an interior design contest and the prize was the opportunity to attend a design seminar by a very popular, high-end designer.  It was a fabulous prize and something I could never afford on my own. I traveled on my own for the first time, stayed in  fancy hotel and got to meet not only this designer, but several others as well. The other attendees were all people who shared my passion for interior design. I wouldn’t call the experience a failure but it wasn’t what I envisioned. However I learned so much, mostly about myself and what my true passion is – not designing fancy houses but helping regular folk enrich their homes with their own style with accessories and styling. And so I help my neighbors lay tile floor, pick out paint colors and accessories and rearrange furniture. A disappointment lead to a new insight and direction.

Here is another example. My guy is going back to school to get the degree he needs to advance in his job. With 15 years experience, he really wasn’t too keen on the idea of sitting in intro classes in his field. At first people gave him vague answers or referred him to someone else. He kept getting the run-around. Oh, and it was frustrating. Another person might have just given up and taken the classes, spending time and money. But no, for him, it was a challenge and he prodded, followed up, pushed and demanded answers and in the end was rewarded with credit in several classes, shortening his time in school by at least a semester.

I think it also helps if you go into something expecting to have challenges and problems or roadblocks so that when you encounter them, you are already in an optimistic mindset to see them as a challenge and an opportunity.

Has “failure” ever turned out to be a good thing for you?




2 thoughts on “An Optimistic View of Failure

  1. Great post. My generation (for the most part) refuses to acknowledge that failure can be a very positive thing. If I’ve failed, then I have the opportunity to learn something. If I’ve learned something, then I’m better than I was before. If I accomplish something after failing multiple times, the success is that much sweeter.

    Unfortunately, many people are too short sighted and just give up before they can experience the positive outcomes associated with failing.


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