This month here on middleSage our topic of choice is “The Best Advice I Never Got”. We’ll be talking about the lessons we learned later in life, lessons that would have saved us a whole lot of heartache had we learned them earlier. In the spirit of “I wish I knew then what I know now”!
Today I’m talking about failure….specifically, planning for it.
Hope for the best…Cope with the rest? As I always shout at the TV when I hear a politician talk about his “Hopes”; Hope is not a plan! My husband relies on, “I used to have hope in my soul, now I simply have soap in my hole.”
I based an entire entire career around doing that which I already knew, that which I was already good at. I was successful, I didn’t fail, but I didn’t take chances and I didn’t learn anything new. When I “retired” I decided it was time for me to do something else with my time and energy, the thought of “just trying” something out was completely foreign to me. I had reached the stage in life where I was successful. Failing didn’t scare me, it just wasn’t in the cards….I never learned how to do it.
I’ve read all the “fear of failure” material…I’m guessing you have too. It wasn’t until I read an article by John Caddell, on 99u, a website that touts itself for “insights on making ideas happen”. The article made me think about failure in a different way. It’s inevitable, learning how to handle it and learn from it can be far more valuable than avoiding it. John, says in the article:
Deliberate mistakes are an underutilized tool in our personal growth. They are not natural and don’t arise by default. But, if approached the right way, they can propel us forward and provide us crucial information to guide our future development. To paraphrase Henry Ford, if you believe you can’t do something, you’re always right.
Often when faced with a difficult task we make a set of assumptions that dictate our actions. “I’m not good enough to get that client.” Or “I can’t go to that event, it’s too big-time for me.” We can sabotage ourselves before we even begin, afraid of failure or embarrassment. To tackle hard problems and to really stretch ourselves, sometimes we have to make a “deliberate mistake.”
if we fail, we learn something. If we succeed, our long-shot risk actually paid off. By reframing tough tasks as “deliberate mistakes” we can help remove all of the pressure that can keep us frozen, all while learning something along the way.
It’s the term “deliberate mistakes” that got my attention. How many times do we try something and fail and hang our head in shame and walk away? I know I am guilty. How many times have we been dismissive when a mistake was made…”No big deal, it didn’t really matter to me anyway”. If we were to teach our kids how to fail, how to use the tools that failing provides you & how to come back swinging after failure, well, just think of the possibilities.
Since you’re reading this blog, I feel confident to tell you, I don’t always know what I’m doing in the blogging world. I’m teaching myself what works and what doesn’t by trial and error. When I started in the blogging world, the language was foreign and I didn’t know what I was doing. I blogged in anonymity to avoid ridicule. I didn’t feel too uncomfortable in the learning curve stage and the thought of “failure” wasn’t too scary….as long as nobody knew it was me.
Learning to fail should be as important in school as Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic. How to think about failure, not in terms of a finality, but in terms of how to do something better. Have you ever been to a child’s baseball, football or soccer game and they’re not keeping score. There’s a philosophy of starting a child out without the “failure” ingredient as part of their experience. What a great way to teach our kids about the fear of failure and what a great way not to teach our kids about the benefits and tools we can develop by failing. This is a failure on our part. Kids who are not taught and given the opportunity to fail and then learn from it will never feel secure trying new things and learning from the experience.
Ty Cobb holds the record for the highest career batting average in Major League Baseball with .366. Not being a baseball fanatic I had to look up exactly how batting averages are calculated and what they actually mean. The batting average is usually represented not as a percentage (i.e. 28.0%), but instead as a decimal number with three places after the decimal. A batting average of 1.000 means that the player gets a hit every time he comes to bat, and an average of .000 means the player has no hits.
Ty Cobbs hits have been estimated at between 4,189 (or 4,191, depending on the source) Cobb’s At-bats estimates have ranged as high as 11,437. So if Ty Cobb gets 4189 hits in his career and has 11,437 “at bats” in his career his batting average would be 4189/11,437 or .366.
This is the math of success. But it’s also the math of failure. Ty Cobb, the baseball player with the greatest batting average, failed at getting a hit more times than he hit the ball, and he’s still considered the greatest. Every time a batter fails to hit the ball, they analyze what did they do wrong. What can be done differently? They come back to the plate with a resolve to crush it with the new knowledge they’ve gained only through their failure.
Why does Ty Cobb hold the title for the greatest batting average today? He didn’t give up when he failed to get a hit. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I am a fan of those that learn from their failures and come back swinging.