Failure’s Negative Connotations And Breaking Down Those Walls
Failure is too often associated with negativity, fear, and despair. Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success. In my experience, failure is not the opposite of success. In fact, in my sticky notes on my desk is the phrase, “failure is feedback!” Looking at failure as a negative is the farthest thing from the truth. I often learn more from failure than anything else.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about a speaking engagement, where I experienced a small moment of failure. I could tell I was not engaging the audience in the subject. However, it was a blessing in disguise. I wrote, “Being able to learn a lesson in a safe place is rare. Being able to learn any lesson is a wonderful gift. How many of us give ourselves the opportunity for growth?” In that moment I learned a valuable lesson. That small failure was a success.
Many times I find people are afraid of failure. They’re afraid of rejection, being let down, or letting people down. These are rational fears, but ones that can be easily overcome when you change your perspective on them. Instead of looking at failure as negative, break down those barriers and see a teachable moment where you can come to a greater understanding of yourself and your surroundings. Because I’m always striving to have people find their most authentic self, I ask them who is talking when they hear negative mental prompts. In order to do so, we have to look at apparent failures and see what we can learn from them.
In communicating with animals of all kinds I’ve learned that dogs in particular learn by observing their, as they fondly call us, person. They watch carefully to see what is expected of them. They want to please, if corrected in a way they can understand, they will rarely make the same mistake twice. Cats don’t care, horses for the most part want to give it all they have – whatever “it” is. They go all out. All of this enthusiasm is dependent upon the clarity of communication from us.
To the extent that we are clear and observant of a dog’s message back to us, they are very quick learners. In the event that a dog’s curiosity has been mistreated, the ability to learn will be curtailed. (pun intended) The dog Whisperer Ceasar Milan will come into what appears to be a failed situation and turn it around. He uses what’s there – the “failure” of the dog’s people to understand the dog. He approaches with curiosity and the skills he has learned all his life.
Without curiosity, the ability to investigate, the awareness of possibility is blunted. What we see is that the animal is limited in some way. Usually reflecting our own limitations. Without curiosity our fears mask our own learning – what we know is muted by our fear in the moment of our perceived failure.
Failure, to be effective, loves to have an unconditional love component. When we are free to explore and create without worry, we nurture our curiosity, which nurtures our sensitivity, which nurtures our growth.
Growth only happens with acceptance, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum – the airless place created by fear of not being acceptable, fear of failure of any kind.
We are not so different from dogs, are we?