Do you struggle to come to terms with failure in your work life?
(Or you life in general?) I sure as hell do. I hate it, but it’s true.
When we fear failing, we miss out on playing big in our own lives. When we are afraid, we don’t show up for ourselves. We don’t take risks or allow ourselves to be seen.
When we are afraid of failure, we fail to start, or to finish something that we know would light us up.
We are afraid we’ll be found out as a fraud and everyone will see us and just KNOW – She’s not cut out for this. Who does she think she is?
If you’re internal tape ever plays the thoughts –
- Am I good enough?
- Who am I to think I have any business doing this?
- I’m not enough of an expert.
- I didn’t go to school for this, I have no right to teach anybody else.
- What if I start and can’t finish? Everyone will see I’m an imposter.
- They’ll hate it. or They’ll love it, and I won’t be able to deliver again.
- I will crack under the pressure.
Well . . . I could go on, but if any of that resonates, pull up a chair. We’ve gotta chat.
These wise words are courtesy of one of my favourite humans, farmer Joel Salatin.
Farming is one of those undertakings where you either get comfortable with failure, or you quit. There is no grey area and there is no doubt when you fail. You can bet there’s no avoiding it.
You might be able to fudge your quarterly sales numbers – but on the farm, there’s no way round it when something dies. It simply IS.
Despite everything, the my farming failures have been a blessing, not a curse. (Although I’d be lying if I didn’t say I sure as hell curse it sometimes, heartily!)
The biggest gift of my farming failures is they help me reframe failure in other parts of my life, too.
Most of us are afraid – on some level – of failing.
But we also know that to do anything new – to learn a new skill, become a parent, take on a new adventure, change and grow . . . we must face failure.
How do we square that circle? How do we begin to view failure as a necessary part of the process at work, instead of something to be avoided?
We must recognize that failure is rarely fatal.
Being afraid to fail, focusing on failure won’t banish failure.
Instead, it will produce the thing we are most afraid of, that we are desperately trying to avoid – failure itself.
It’s only when we release our fear of failure that failure will lose its grip on us.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do, try, be?
Those are the places we need to spend our time. Our answer to that question is a big hint from the universe – this is the direction you need to go. Down this dark and prickly path lies wholeheartedness and joy.
Accepting failure doesn’t mean you won’t fail. You WILL fail. Over and over.
And really, this is great! (No, really.)
I think about Edison who reframed his failure – he didn’t fail at making the lightbulb, he found thousands of ways to NOT make one, and that is valuable information.
In my Holistic Harvest organic gardening course, we bump up against our fear of failure often.
See, in some work, we can skirt around failure.
If you don’t actually know what you’re producing (who among us knowledge workers is ever really connected to a sense of purpose in our end product?) failure is . . . amorphous at best. Completely avoidable at worst.
But in the garden? Failure is glaringly obvious – shit dies.
But to my students in The Holistic Harvest I always ask –
So what? So what something died? What did you learn? What message was the plant or pest or disease sending you?
It’s not failure, it’s simply information on how to improve next time. That is powerful, valuable stuff.
Listen, many of us are Mums.
How many of us expect our wee ones to stand up and walk perfectly across the room the first time? No.
We expect they will fall down. A lot. There will be bumped heads and skinned knees.
We accept this as natural and necessary.
Why can’t we offer ourselves the same grace as we go out into the world, wobbly and unsure?
If we did, maybe we’d be more likely to reach out a hand, grab hold for those close to us, search out a steadying influence that we could accept without shame or disappointment or self-doubt.
These big dreams on your heart – the desire to be seen, to show up in your own life – as yourself, FOR yourself . . . this shit is hard.
You’ve never done these things before. You’ve got stuff to learn.
Why do you expect that you ought to do it right the first time? Why put that on yourself?
What if, instead, we could approach failure with curiosity and gratitude?
How might that shift our experience?
What if we bore our scrapped knees are what they are – proud proof of our courage to try?