I recently read that 96% of businesses will fail within the first 10 years. But for such a universal occurrence, it’s surprising to me that failure has such a bad rap.
We’re often made to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or regretful of our mistakes and believe we must do everything in our power to ensure they don’t happen again.
The truth is, most of us aren’t willing to fail because the stakes are just too high. Failing could mean we get fired, lose thousands on an investment, jeopardize a relationship, or let others down.
By avoiding failure, you are missing out on the powerful teachings it has to offer. There’s a goldmine of bravery, resilience, and growth beneath failure, but only for those daring enough to dig.
But what if there was a way to fail that allowed us to access its riches with none of the risk?
One woman says there is. Meet Lindy Norris, a speaker and growth catalyst most-known for her Ted Talk “Fail Better,” where she exposes the hidden treasures of failure. She’s also a Marketing Magazine 30 Under 30 honoree and the founder of the nonprofit Athena Leadership.
Norris shares how to become a student in failure’s classroom on the latest episode of Unconventional Life, “How To Heal Your Relationship To Failure Forever.”
Norris’ first major run-in with failure took place when she moved across the continent from Canada to San Francisco to pursue an MBA program. After spending just a few days in the program, she realized it wasn’t right for her and decided to head home empty-handed.
Back in Canada, she found herself confused, disappointed, and unclear what to do next. All of the effort she put into applying for her MBA had seemingly been a complete waste.
To add insult to injury, she did the same thing a second time by trying to go back for a different MBA with no success. But rather than pity herself, Norris did something unexpected: she looked deeper into the failure and opened herself up to its teachings.
What she learned was that she was destined for something different. The deeper she inquired, the more clear became her calling to spread awareness about failure to the world — beginning with her Ted Talk about failing better.
“Look at [failure] from a development perspective, figure out how you can develop resilience through it and come closer to what you really want to do,” she says.
“It’s okay to change your mind, it’s okay to follow what really fulfills you, what your passions are… there’s points when we realize that what we originally envisioned for ourselves isn’t what we want to do anymore. That’s totally okay — changing your business, changing your mind, deciding to take a different direction is totally okay,” Norris says.
Below, check out the different ways you can make failure your friend without having to risk it all. By flexing your failure muscle, you’ll become more adept at learning from mistakes and more confident to take risks that can benefit you.
1. Ask for a 10% discount one day where you usually buy your morning coffee. It seems like a simple thing to ask, but it’s bound to make you (and the cashier) feel a bit uncomfortable. By asking, there’s a lot more to gain than just a few cents — you’ll reach a higher threshold of confidence and overcome a significant social barrier. Remember, the worst they can say is no.
2. Sit next to someone on a non-crowded bus, train, or subway. We tend to leave plenty of extra room between ourselves and strangers, especially when there’s no shortage of space. Are you bold enough to do it anyways and reclaim friendliness for creepiness? (Bonus points for striking up a conversation).
3. Publicly state your biggest goal. Tell as many friends and family members about it as you can, and be 100% honest. By sharing your biggest goal, you risk a very painful and very public failure. You’ll be challenged to be accountable for your goals and to make peace with the possibility of missing the mark.
4. Share something personal to your social network. Facebook is a great outlet — but what if you don’t get any likes? The benefit is you’ll learn to share openly without attachment to how people receive it. Sharing for the sake of sharing, because it’s important to you, is a huge win.
5. Speak up to your boss about something you don’t like. Many of us try to suck up to our bosses and pretend things are fine because they have power over us. This time, dare to speak up about something that’s bothering you to reclaim your voice. If you are the boss, try giving totally honest feedback to an employee.
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