It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.Steal Like an Artist by Austin Klein
Of course, this is not THE thing that defines us and makes us unique. But it is ONE of the experiences of what it means to be human. We each fail uniquely (ala The Anna Karenina Principle).
Perhaps it isn’t how we fail but how we respond to the failure that defines us. Do we approach a mistake as something to be avoided or something that is, as the Carnegie quote in part two implies, a prerequisite towards success? One of those will enable us to take more risks, learn through more challenges, stay engaged with the world more, and the other will not.
We need to rewind a bit to understand that how we fail and how we respond to that failure begins with how we approach whatever we were trying to achieve.
If, for example, we are offering a course and are in the role of someone who is an expert in the topic, then the likelihood that we will transform mistakes into moments of judgment about our skills is greatly heightened. It goes back to the concept of lesson 3 from last week’s post:
One way to enact that interruption is to short-circuit the “expert” approach that is most likely to trigger it. If we approach our endeavors with a beginner’s mind instead, open to the process of learning even as we are playing the role of teacher or facilitator with others, then mistakes are simply part of our continual learning process. Whether it is in service to a creative act, to meditation, or to a work project, beginners’ mind creates a space for discovery, a space where mistakes are expected, and where insights bloom.
In the freedom from the story of “being a failure,” we find the grace to look at the situation with curiosity and a desire to understand what happened. Like working out at the gym, then, we can troubleshoot the problem, learn what to tweak, and continue to find a way to strengthen ourselves in the process.
I was fortunate with the failure of Leap! because it was not based on an expert/student model. It was just a group of folks getting together to spend an hour playing our way through various writing prompts. I was more of a host to the event than an expert and so my ego was not intertwined with the outcome of the day. And I’ll have another chance at it. Failing forward feels much better than getting stuck in failing or the even worse option of considering myself to be a failure.
The test group truly did want to do it again and some other folks were bummed they missed the opportunity. So Leap! (the prompt version) will become a quarterly event. If you’re interested and want to get an email letting you know when the next event is scheduled, you can sign up here.