CNN recently published a wonderful article on failure as described by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan. You can read it here: The Success of Failure.
What struck me most about the article was that there were two times when Egan faces failure. When she sits down to write and when she edits what’s already written. Most successful writers know that the first draft is not the finished product. In fact, Anne Lamott refers to the first attempt at any writing as a “shitty first draft.” So, you’d think that they would simply write, knowing that it will need to be revised. But therein lies the problem – facing the writing, as if it should be perfect, and facing the editing.
Egan says the key is “struggling a lot.”
I don’t like failing, or struggling for that matter. I think, early in life, I somehow learned that it was wrong to fail. That perhaps only lesser people failed and if I failed, I would somehow be lesser. The impact of this misbelief is that I don’t like to put the hard work into the struggle. I’d prefer to avoid the pain of both the work and the potential for failure.
What’s fascinating is that this fear of failure is more powerful than the failure itself.
Whenever I’ve failed, I either fixed my mistake or simply apologized when fixing it was no longer an option. However, prior to taking on a particular project, I can create a fantasy about the potential failure that is far worse than the failure itself. I’m thinking Jaws when the reality is more like Nemo.
Success and growth come from living through failure and learning from it. If no one every failed, we’d live in a very boring, unimaginative, and stagnant world. We need risk and failure to move forward.
So, whattya say we try to nip the fear of failure in the bud and allow ourselves to step into the abyss (which is way more shallow than we believe) and reap the benefits of the success that come from failure?
I don’t think we can really fail.