Why Failing Matters
Failure terrifies me, especially when it means disappointing a client. These failures are brutal, and damaging to client relationships. But they are also absolutely critical to our success.
My most embarrassing failure
Awhile back I was put in charge of writing the website content for a professional services client. Our team put together market research and buyer personas, and I used this information as well as a list of competitor websites provided by the client to do my writing.
I found it challenging to write about an industry unfamiliar to me; I agonized over how much detail to include and whether or not I was copying our client’s competitors.
The client’s response to the first drafts was severe: I got it wrong, and it would all need to be re-done before we could continue. Content development was assigned to another team member.
The client lost faith in me, and in Digett. We’ve all worked together to get the relationship running smoothly again, but it makes me heartsick to think about how easily I upset the balance.
Why I’m telling you this
I’ve read so many blog posts about how it’s okay to fail, that it promotes out-of-the-box thinking and encourages people to take chances. But where are the articles explaining what to do when you fall flat on your ass?
It’s fine to “dream big and fail hard,” but you have to have a plan for recovering from that failure and avoiding a future repeat.
Learn from failure
Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Failing once is embarrassing — failing again the same way because you didn’t learn the first time can be a nightmare.
Fortunately there’s a simple process for avoiding this scenario.
- Acknowledge your failure - Confess your failure to yourself (and others).
- Write it down - Create a plan for avoiding future similar mistakes. Revisit these notes often.
- Move on - Stop beating yourself up. Your next project needs your full attention.
The lesson I learned from my most embarrassing failure was to speak up. I was tentative, afraid to dive deep, ask questions, and be assertive. I didn’t have what I needed to succeed, and lacked the nerve to demand it. So I failed.
The occasional mistake or failure is inevitable, and painful. But without those failures humanity would never have taken to the skies, visited the darkest depths, or mapped our globe.
Try new things. Fail. Learn. Try again.