Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Learning By Failing

I’m learning by failing, which is the best way to learn.” – Greg Wells

I keep coming across this concept in interviews with successful people whose work I admire. Here it is again in an interview with musician/producer Greg Wells, and once again I am struck by the utter simplicity of this obvious truth.

I think the reason I didn’t learn this lesson earlier in life was because I made the fatal error of personalizing failure. Because I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem to start with, when I failed at something I would interpret it as “I am a failure,” rather than “OK, I failed to achieve what I wanted – let’s look at what went wrong and regroup…” As a result, failure would really slow me down. I would become stuck in this fatalistic loop of distorted thinking, ashamed and embarrassed at my perceived shortcomings and having difficulty looking at things rationally.

There were two things I didn’t understand:

  1. You are not your failures. Big, big distinction.
  2. Failing is good – because it means you are learning and pushing yourself into uncharted waters. In other words, it means you are fully alive.

And really, this is the goal. To be fully engaged with life, always growing and learning new things. There is no stasis – you are either moving forward, or falling back. If you choose to move forward you need to get used to failing, because this is just part of the process.