Business Week’s ‘The How To’ issue features dozens of handy how-to tips crafted by everyone from “CEOs, tech visionaries, U.S. senators, an NFL referee, an artist, and, for good measure, an 11-year-old and a 106-year-old” (Thanks Steve). This second annual issue includes two pieces on specifically embracing failure…
- How to Admit a Mistake – “When that happens, you can’t let yourself get caught up in the fact that you’ve just made a mistake, or else I’m paralyzed for the rest of the game. So you immediately have to recognize the mistake, because you won’t cause anything but detriment if you lie to yourself. Then you have to move on. Admitting it publicly is part of dealing with it. And then you say, ‘What can I learn from it?’ You’re not learning anything from your mistake if you justify it. You need to have confidence. One of the comments I hear is that I always seem in to be control, and I always seem to be confident. I laugh at that because sometimes that’s just appearance. But if I don’t appear confident, how can I expect people watching to have confidence in me? If I made a mistake and I’m going to change it, I’m going to explain what it should be and I’m going to stand up for it. This mistake did not destroy me.”
- How to Fail – “I think failing is the best way to keep you grounded, curious, and humble. Success is dangerous because often you don’t understand why you succeeded. You almost always know why you’ve failed. You have a lot of time to think about it.”
I like the explicit, pragmatic, manual-for-daily-living approach. ‘Whether’ to embrace failure has become pretty widely accepted in mainstream thinking these days, but ‘How’ to embrace is where there is always room for insight and discovery. By the very nature of the beast you are taming, one has to tread very carefully. Failure, by definition, entail pain, grief and disappointment and no one wants too much of that. A mug-handed, wholesale embrace of failure isn’t going to do anyone any good.