Failure is not my favorite topic—nor yours, I’m sure.
I told the story of one of my biggest failures in Chapter 14 of Warm Cup of Wisdom, and it’s still painful to read about it. I’d rather recall my successes.
But failure is part of life—especially if you dare to try new things and take risks. Overcoming setbacks plays a big part in how we grow our confidence, as explained in The Confidence Code, a 2014 book I highly recommend. Its authors, TV reporters Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, recommend taking action and courting risk—and learning from “fast failure.” If you live in fear and don’t ever take risks, you may never fail—but you won’t build your confidence either.
I remember telling myself: “You can let failure crush you, or you can figure out how to learn from it.” I decided to learn from it—to adapt to the new circumstances and try an avenue I had once rejected. I’m glad I did.
Here are some tips from the older women I interviewed:
- When things go wrong, I usually retreat, beat myself up, and then spend a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently. And then I address it if I can, or say, “That’s enough of that. Let’s move on.”
- When facing setbacks, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, continually, until you get through it.
- If you let your setbacks destroy you because you’re afraid you’re going to fail, then you’ve made the choice to be a failure.
In Silicon Valley, “embrace failure” is a buzzword. Investors encourage young entrepreneurs to jump in quickly and start up new companies; if the company fails, the entrepreneur is lauded as someone who is willing to take risks. After a failure or two, she looks more attractive the next time around, because she is experienced and knows what mistakes not to repeat. “Failure” is seen as a synonym for “learning experience.” Silicon Valley even has an annual event called FailCon that celebrates and studies startup failures.
It’s better to take a risk and fail than to stay in your comfort zone and refuse to act on your dream.