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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Blog, Life | 1 comment

Celebrate Failure

Celebrate Failure

The other evening we took our family out to one of our favorite Italian places – Macaroni Grill.  Love their peasant bread!  My wife had been given a gift card, so we were looking for a discounted meal that we didn’t have to prepare or clean up.  Hard to beat that.  During the course of our meal, one of the waiters dropped a glass on the concrete floor, shattering it into a thousand pieces.  The sound was startling and unmistakable.  I think it took us all by surprise.

But what happened next was equally surprising: the rest of the staff applauded the incident.

The experience brought me back to an important principle that I need to be reminded of often.  Celebrate failure.  I immediately took this to heart the following evening as I spilled a glass of ice water on the kitchen floor.  My first instinct was to get upset.  I could have cried, after all, because it wasn’t milk.  But instead I responded with a fist pump and a triumphant “Yes!”  My new discipline has begun.

Before I mention a few benefits I’ve realized in celebrating failures, let me make it clear that not all failures should be celebrated.  Moral failures and failures that result in the loss of life or dignity should not be celebrated.  Can something  be learned from these tragedies…certainly.  But let’s not make the mistake of celebrating them.  And then there’s the topic of failures in little league.  We celebrate mediocrity far too often in that arena.  But that’s a completely different post.  🙂

thomas-edison-and-light-bulb1But there are great opportunities in our failures.  It was Thomas Edison who famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”  Regardless of how he spun it, Edison would not have become the inventor he was had he not seized the opportunities amidst his many failures.

I believe celebrating failure does at least three things for us:

  1. It relieves some pressure.  We have way too much pressure around us.  Without opportunities to fail with gusto, the pressure would grow to unmanageable levels.  Under such stress and strain, many burn out or just quit trying.
  2. It preserves the worth of the individual.  Most of us create an unhealthy connection between our performance and our worth.  Criticism and personal failure chip away at our perceived value until we believe that failure has made us less than who we are.  Being able to celebrate failure allows us to learn from our mistakes in a healthy way without questioning what we’re made of.
  3. It opens powerful avenues for learning and success.  Going back to Edison’s quote, it is our failures that sometimes lead us to the best and most sustainable solutions.  The first idea is often not the best.  But if it ‘works’, we will stop pursing the best.  Celebrating failure allows the pursuit of the ‘best’ to continue, bringing wisdom and more lasting success.

What about you?  Do you celebrate success?  What benefits have you realized from doing so?  I would love to hear from you.

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1 Comment

  1. Great post, Tim, and an excellent reminder that failure is only failure when we let it be. Loved the Edison quote!