The moment I read about Finland’s National Failure Day I knew I had to write about it. What a brilliant idea, celebrating people taking risks, learning from mistakes and coming out better on the other side. Now, I must confess I am 100% without a doubt the kind of person who would rather try and fail than not try at all. I am definitely more terrified of the “what if I don’t try…” idea than “but what if it doesn’t work” and the thought of me not being able to do something doesn’t enter the equation. (Not that I think I can do everything, but I believe I can figure it or find the people who can.)
I have a fabulous Mother who simply says, “You can do that! Just put yourself out there!” and then changes the subject. No worries, no what-ifs, just pure encouragement and I can’t imagine all the things I wouldn’t have done without those words to live by. If I called home and things weren’t going so great she would tell me “you can figure it out” and if I decided to not continue that path it was a celebration of “well, now you know and you can’t say I wish I would’ve”.
You have to get the crap out
What I learned in design school. You simply can’t have an award winning first idea. You have to sketch it out, work with it, scrap parts, keep the good stuff and let yourself depart from that initial idea if it just isn’t working – no matter how much you love it. The crazy ideas and the iterations are the vehicles that get you to the good stuff. The more you work to refine, the better you, your ideas and your skills get.
The Setback. Put on your thick skin and keep going
Design school also teaches you to toughen up. 15-20 different people critique your work every week and you are simply not going to please everyone but that doesn’t mean you quit. Sometimes you make adjustments and sometimes you scrap the whole idea and in the end some projects get put in the student gallery and some just, well, are still crap. That one crappy project doesn’t mean you don’t start the next project for the class or class of the program. You keep going.
Out of the safe zone
So what happens when we leave the safe zone of the learning environment and head out into the “real world”? Why do we put so much stock into this “what if it doesn’t go great” idea? In the safe zone we took feedback, made iterations and kept honing the skills we needed to get things just right. We probably even put in a tremendous amount of effort and sleepless nights to getting things right while paying several pretty pennies for the opportunity. So why do we stop practicing and refining to get to our best when someone else is paying us to play at our best? Why do we get defensive about receiving constructive feedback that could help us get the crap out of our professional skill set and become that great inspiring person that everyone dreams of working for?
You don’t know everything
And you aren’t expected to. You are, however, expected to learn and sometimes learning includes falling down but there is always help if you look for it and are willing to receive it. We want everything RIGHT NOW! However, just as the Fast Company article “The Dirty Little Secrets of Overnight Successes” points out, most overnight successes aren’t so overnight. There are many “near-death experiences, and countless setbacks” before they got to the good stuff.
Take the pressure off
We need to take the pressure off of ourselves. No one likes a “know-it-all” so why do we pretend to be one and resist the idea of continuing to learn after formal education? It is not only ok to get professional development, but encouraged more and more the higher up the chain you go. Why wait? Start practicing now. Being coachable, willing to learn and change are desired traits by employers. Be prepared for that next interview by speaking to all of the professional development opportunities you have sought out and the results of practicing these new skills.
The only way you will really fail is if you don’t learn from your mistakes and take the necessary action to make sure you don’t repeat them. People don’t remember the setbacks, they remember what you got right. I didn’t know WD-40 got it’s name because it took 40 attempts to get it right, did you? You just know WD-40 will get the job done. So go out there, do what it takes to evoke your full potential and if you stumble, dust yourself off and keep going!
Image courtesy: WD-40.com