Converting failure into a learning experience sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Think again.
Being afraid of failure is a common human trait. For artists, the fear is usually greater as their persona is often embodied in their work for all to see. Although of course that’s not true. What we write, or paint, or sculpt, is not who we are. But it is hard not to take criticism personally. If you are unable to separate criticism of your work from criticism of yourself as a person, then you are in the wrong field.
How do we Develop a Thick Skin?
Your work is not who you are. Your actions are not who you are. But they have consequences, both good and bad. So the important thing to remember is writing a boring book does not make you a boring person. Similarly, doing a stupid think like leaving the car unlocked in a high crime neighborhood, does not make you a stupid person. You might kick yourself for losing the bag you (stupidly) left in the back seat. You are still a smart person who did a stupid thing.
How Can We Learn from our Mistakes?
We can learn from our mistakes by improving the way we write or behave. As in the example above, the chances of you leaving the car unlocked when you lose something valuable is unlikely. With your writing , or painting , or whatever, then you can pick apart what you did, and find a way to do it differently. Which takes us to the next part.
You will only learn from failure if you have an open mind ~ A.K.Andrew
How to Embrace failure.
I love making mistakes in my writing. Every time someone points out something is not working in my novel, then I know that’s a golden opportunity for me to improve what I’m working on. Be grateful when someone points out you did a lousy job, because this is your chance to learn. This is your chance to make things better.
In a recent article in Brainpickings.org, Ed Catmull, a cofounder of Pixar, had some great insight on the nature of failure.
We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.
Six Guidelines to Embracing Failure
Be open to criticism.
Stop being defensive.
Love and learn from your mistakes.
See every hurdle as an opportunity for learning.
Failure is the road to improvement.
Be adventurous and be prepared to fail.
All those positives are fine in theory, but as Ed Catmull noted, we are human and failure is painful. But remember the resulting growth is worth the pain. Do you want to be adventurous and creative, or play it safe and go with the status quo. It’s your life, and your choice. I choose to fail.
How do you deal with failure? Is it something you dread? Can you see a positive side to failure?
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