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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Embrace Failure


I failed. It wasn’t very spectacular. Well, if I asked people around they wouldn’t even say it was a failure, but for me it was below-average performance. Thus failure.

Did I feel bad? I did. I couldn’t help. I knew I shouldn’t but after all I’m just a human. But then I consider it as much better thing which happened to me than just another success. Why?

Because we don’t learn from successes. We learn from failures.

When we achieve success it’s like someone was telling us “you’re great, no need to change.” And there is a need to improve. Always. The thing is we usually don’t see it unless we fail.

The trick is to embrace failure. Welcome it warmly. It is your ticket to another learning session. Yes, you will fill badly for a while, but in the long run it is more valuable than success.

Failure is an eye-opener. Suddenly you see what you were doing wrong and you don’t understand how blind you’d been not to spot it earlier.

Failure is a kick in the butt. You feel bad so you know you have to do something to avoid this unpleasant feeling next time. Unless you’re a masochist and you like to feel bad.

Failure is a helping hand. You get some guidance what you should improve or what you should avoid.

We are told we should embrace change. I see no reason why we shouldn’t embrace failure.

in: personal development

8 comments… add one

  • Andrew Fuqua October 19, 2010, 9:10 pm

    Yet it’s possible to fail and learn nothing. This is particularly true with the smaller, more numerous could-have-done-that-better’s. What do you do to ensure each failure is converted into learning?

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 20, 2010, 1:15 am

    I see no reason to be obsessed about taking a lesson from each and every suboptimal performance. Actually it is a kind of self-tuning mechanism. If I did something worse than I expected, worse than I wanted I feel bad and it is an impulse to change something.

    And yes, you’re right that it is possible to fail and just accept it and change nothing. The trick is these would usually be unimportant situation. That is unless it happens over and over again and it becomes annoying.

    But if you prefer something more structured check Jurgen Appelo’s continuous reflection approach.

  • Simonas October 20, 2010, 3:27 am

    good topic. Correct point of view. couple of notes :) we should not forget failure should not be your daily life. And another thing: it is also art to learn from success. Check “The awesome iteration” part from http://blog.james-carr.org/2008/09/04/retrospective-patterns/

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 20, 2010, 6:22 am

    The trick with learning from successes is that we tend to over-interpret our lessons. We tend to attribute success to our performance, our actions and our skills even if the real source of success is completely different.

    After all, it’s comforting to think how good we are. That’s why failure is way better teacher than success.

  • jfbauer October 21, 2010, 9:17 am

    “After all, it’s comforting to think how good we are. That’s why failure is way better teacher than success.”

    Couldn’t agree more with your phase; thanks for sharing this thought provoking post. – jfbauer

  • Manuel October 24, 2010, 7:33 am

    Failing doesn’t mean you’re succeeding.

    It’s the learning that matters. Not failure or success. Learning is the value driver. Thus I’d say: Embrace learning.

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 25, 2010, 2:06 am

    Yes it’s learning which matters. But people don’t want to learn.

    Everyone knows that learning is good, but at the same time we don’t have motivation to learn. Saying that we should embrace learning is like saying that learning is good. We already know that. That’s why I say embrace failure. Failure is (or should be at least) good as well. Failure pushes us to learn. Failure is an intrinsic motivation to start learning. Thus failure is good.

    Failure is a good medicine to cure our overgrown ego too, but that’s another story.

  • marni September 23, 2012, 12:12 pm

    I am not learning the physics. Every problem I try I get wrong. I fail each test because I do not understand how to figure out the problems. Failure is constant and painful. There is not enough time in the week for me to learn this math before I am thrown into new math. I want to learn. I ask for help from every person I meet. I go to tutoring. I work on these problems everyday for 6hrs a day and still do not understand how to break them into small pieces that are then solveable- because everyone can eat an elephant- one bite at a time. Failure is proof that I don’t understand this problem at this time.

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