Let me get this straight: I seriously doubt anyone enjoys failure.
Sounds obvious, right? We don't enjoy it so we avoid failure at all cost. Makes sense.
The only problem is that there are different definitions of failure that are worth exploring. Let's start with the first one.
Trigger warning: this newsletter contains a visualization exercise that may evoke negative emotions.
How does it feel?
Try to imagine the last time you failed at something.
What I mean here by failure is: you tried to do a new thing (or a thing you've tried before) and it didn't end up the way you planned.
It might have been an exercising failure (going all fours when skating), a product failure (you launched something and it didn't get the attention you expected), dieting failure, whatever. Anything that made you disappointed about your performance.
Do you have this picture in your head? The unpleasant feeling of crushed expectations? Don't hold it for too long, I know it sucks. It's just an exercise.
Because we associate strong negative feelings with failures, it's hard for us to accept them. A little reframing technique can hopefully change that. I want to present a different definition of failure.
Ok, but why am I writing about failure?
You may not know it, but my target is to publish this newsletter every second Thursday. Most of the time (recently), I send it as expected. This time, if you look at the publication date, I failed. I can share a list of excuses but that's not the point. You're reading this, so maybe it wasn't a total failure after all?
A failure or a mistake?
We like to talk about people failing. Failed entrepreneur, failed artist, failed athlete.
But are these failures really failures? Building a company that ultimately fails is still a bigger accomplishment than a lot of people are capable of. Launching a music album that flops requires work and passion. And dedication. Sure, it might have been a mistake. But a failure? Hardly!
Launching something is a big success. Even if it doesn't perform as well as we anticipated, it's not the end of the world (usually). Nobody has a 100% success rate as it's unnatural (how many apple seeds turn into apple trees?).
We're born with an attitude to try new things. Later on, we are taught to worry about our mistakes. But we need them.
We grow by trying new things and figuring out what doesn't work. Then we try other approaches until we get it right. Just look at the toddlers making their first steps. They're rarely afraid of failure.
You'll never hear them saying "Nah, I don't think I'm a good material for this walking stuff, I lack the talent." OK, the last part might be because toddlers rarely talk about existential matter. But I'm sure you know what I mean.
Failure is something permanent. If we decline to learn from our missteps, a label of failure may be accurate. If we just treat them as a hard and painful lesson, then it was nothing more than a mistake.
Big or small, but still a mistake. It wasn't a failure. We aren't a failure. We only fail when we give up.
“Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke presents an interesting way on looking at decisions. We tend to associate decisions with their outcome. If a decision leads to a bad outcome, we call it a bad decision. That’s not necessarily true and good decisions can still lead to bad outcomes because there is always a degree of uncertainty.
Daniel Vassalo — a strong proponent of making lots of small bets and having the courage to try different things (and make mistakes along the way)
Łukasz Skotarek — who inspired some parts of this newsletter and published weekly music playlists as Vagrant Vibes
📚Book Club Updates
It’s been a mess recently, but I’m really willing to fix it this time, trust me (please)!
What we want to dicuss on the next meeting is the contents of “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens. A great volume for all those creative minds with too many ideas running around!