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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Aiming at failure

By Pete Ryan

I recently noticed that my behaviour has followed a different path. I was actually playing a computer game and I was at a specific point that I could not get past. As my frustration grew I made a realisation. At some point I had started to avoid situations where failure was a high possibility. This week I have decided to move away from that mindset.

Think about yourself as a child, did you walk first go? Did you learn to read and write without struggles? Humans naturally grow through failure, they do not generally grow through success. My simple idea is to try something that involves a high probability of failure regularly. Failure is the hard part of growing, without it we will stagnate and never become the person we were meant to be.  With this in mind I intend to add some things into my life that will push me to fail regularly.  These will then also help me develop as I discover what it means to push through to success, and conversely to learn when I need to realise I just need to give up and move on to another problem that does have a solution I can accomplish.

Don’t get confused, these do not need to be fantastic feats or impossible actions.  Try simple things. I will use myself as an example. Suppose I get some inline skates (I cannot skate). I would have to push past the “Everybody laughing at me wobble along” stage, before I can achieve any sort of skill at the activity. Perhaps you prefer something more forceful, how about arm wrestling.  If you go to a club, even if you are stronger you will probably be destroyed by your skilled opponents. You might even be the least able arm wrestler in the club for a while. This would be both humbling and off-putting. However, if you stick with it you will develop more skills and even if you stay at the bottom, you will achieve a proficiency and learn the art of arm wrestling to the best of your ability.

Whether you maintain these skills or leave them behind afterwards is unimportant. I believe adding activities that involve regular failure and having to master new skills will improve you and also acclimatise you to overcoming regular failure. This will help you a lot into the future as it translates directly into life, business and education.

Let’s quickly look at how you can introduce failure into your life. The first point is not to begin with something that will be critical if you fail. You don’t want to climb a perilous cliff face without a lifeline unless you are fully competent at climbing. Start easy. If you can’t swim, join a class, if you cannot do mathematics do a course. You can also learn a new skill, learn chess or anything you cannot presently do. The 'what' does not matter as much as how you feel about it.  You should be mildly concerned when you think of doing the skill. Does doing Judo give you butterflies in the stomach? Does ballroom dancing make you feel like you have two left feet? If so, then they might be just the activities you should be approaching.  Pick things you know will be hard, but not impossible. Pick something you might want to do, there is no point doing flower arranging if you have zero interest in it.

So, here is the challenge.

  1. Pick a skill or activity that you feel you want to do, but have little or no ability at doing right now.
  2. Find a place to learn that activity.
  3. Learn it and embrace the failures along the way.

If you can learn to aim at failure and begin to realise that failure is actually a positive outcome, it could lead your life onto very different pathways and before you know it you will be accomplishing things that you never thought was possible. 

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