Failure is the new black

About 6 weeks ago I wrote a piece for Smallville on the importance of embracing failure. I imagined a world where we could learn the value of failure early in life and even welcome its experience.

Although my own ‘near F’ experience inspired the words, the article itself continues to challenge me. At one point, my goal was just to survive the experience, to learn from it, heal, recover and move on. But as I’ve been working through those stages, I’ve not only found the sting leaving those past failures, but my future failures don’t frighten me as much as they did 12mths ago. Not that I have any planned but I know they are inevitable.

And that’s my point.

Failure is as certain as death.

It will look different to each of us, but at some stage in life everyone will fail. A business, a relationship, a job interview, a driving test – you get the idea. Why then, does it not form a more central part of our education? Why don’t parents talk about it as often as we discuss our desired career choice? We spend a lifetime preparing in some way for death, and yet ‘failure’ always seems to take us by surprise and leave us reeling.

Those who have attempted to broach the topic with someone embarking on a new phase of life are considered insensitive, negative or pessimistic. True, there is always a right and a wrong way to canvas touchy subjects, but what is wrong with calling a spade, a spade? Are we afraid we’ll jinx a project if we consider its demise before it’s even established? Are we concerned that our passion is not strong enough to withstand a conversation with the devil’s advocate? And is that really the fault of failure, or our own determined resolve to remain ignorant?

You see, I think the team at ‘failure’ should have invested more in their initial marketing campaign because they clearly got the message wrong. When we envisage failure, we associate it with everything negative, so I think it’s time for some serious rebranding. We need a warmer image that people want to share; a household name that families love and respect; an experience synonymous with the coming of age. Perhaps a campaign that highlights the benefits of failure and explains the pivotal role it played in the lives of so many who have walked this road before us. A complete overhaul.

If it can be done for icons, then surely it can be done for a transitional status.

Let’s start those conversations with our children, our siblings and even our parents. Let’s normalise failure and break down the stigma attached to being its friend. Let’s write about its virtues, warn of its prevalence and rejoice in its passing. Let’s encourage those who walk for a time in its shadow, and let’s work together to make failure the new black.

Read the Smallville article on Embracing Failure here:

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