The Beauty of Failure
I caught up with a good friend from high school last night. We spoke on the phone for almost 2 hours, chatting about everything from Black Panther and Marvel movies to education in America to business.
She and her husband are trying to have children, and she admitted that she’s not sure what to do about education when she gets there.
We were lucky enough to grow up in a community where education was important. Our high school was ranked one of the top in the state, and we were both good students, pushing ourselves in classes. I sat behind her in Calculus, where we both discovered that not only were we good at math, but that solving problems and puzzles was fun. I carried that into my post-secondary school education and eventually ended up minoring in mathematics twice.
But there’s something I didn’t learn in school, that I had to learn in life, which I think is one of the most beneficial lessons we can learn: how valuable failure is.
Failure and mistakes can often be our greatest teachers. We don’t set out on an endeavor or project to see what can go wrong, but it happens in the process sometimes. We persist despite mistakes and we use what we learn to transform how things are done.
But in school, it’s all about getting the answer “right”.
I had few classes where we could truly experiment and make mistakes. There was always a formula, an expectation, a way to do it to yield the intended result.
Business and life are much messier than that. We try what we think is best. Sometimes it does work and sometimes not.
I was one of those kids that graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA, thanks to lots of As and honors and AP classes. But school turned me into a perfectionist, with my identity so crucially connected to getting it “right”. I kept myself in academia for years, because it reinforced this identity.
It took business to teach me the beauty of failure and to embrace all the mistakes next to everything that does work well. My team and I can refine thanks to mistakes, we make it better, we put more systems and processes into place to prevent a mistake from happening twice. We improve it for everyone.
And that attitude is what has allowed me to try new things, be open to new experiences, to adventure into the unexpected and know that whatever I encounter will help me grow.
Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I went on a hike. At one point, I faceplanted onto the trail, thanks to a tree root that my foot caught. Epic fail. And an epically good reminder to pay attention, be in the moment, and watch the trail for little things that could trip me up.