Fail often and fail early

“It’s OK to make mistakes…that’s how you learn…the most important thing is that you have fun…” We get told this all the time.

Little Gihan, with his big ears and a smile that melted hearts all over Sri Lanka, was taught this. And now, adult Gihan with his big ears and his thinning hair is being taught the same thing. The only difference, Little Gihan was actually free to make mistakes and learn whereas adult Gihan has to tread very carefully(at least that’s what society wants us to think).

At some point, “sh** gets real” and you need to grow up. Most of us (including myself), settle into what I call the safety mindset. Directly or indirectly, we are made to believe that making mistakes or getting things wrong or taking risks (within reason) are baaaaaaaaaaaaad things. Shame on you and your faaaaaaaaaaamillyyyyyyyyy (say this as if you were a ghost in a disney movie to get the full effect).

This becomes interspersed with teachings like “some of the greatest things on planet Earth were mistakes”. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. HINT: it wasn’t supposed to lean. SHHHHHHHHHHHH (be cool, just be cool). But we say or reflect about one thing, and then go back to our plague like mindset of “don’t get anything wrong…if you do, cover it up like a rash”.

What if we were given permission to fail? What would that look like? What would that feel like?

It looks and feels pretty damn good to me!

FAIL OFTEN AND FAIL EARLY. Failing doesn’t exist. Only forward failing.

So I was playing this remixed version of hopscotch with my phenomenal little niece recently and we were giving each other crazy challenges.  Don’t drop the other foot. Hop and pick up rocks. Only land on tiles with weeds coming out of them. As you can tell, it got frickin wild! Anyway, at one point she said something along the lines of “If I get to the other end, then that’s a success and if I land on a weed, that’s a fail. If I get 3 fails, then I lose”. It was amazing just watching what was taking place in front of me. I kept designing these challenges for her, each one harder than the one before. At one point, I knew she was going to struggle.

Some people just want to see the world burn.

The initial challenges she smashed and she was ecstatic. Then when I made it harder, I could see her struggling and getting frustrated. And then, eventually she said “I can’t do it, it’s too hard”. Never will I let my own blood say that to me. NO WAY! So I said, instead of calling it a “fail”, why don’t you call it a “forward fail”. I explained that you either win or you learn! Just watching her, she learnt so much more when she thought of these things as forward fails! It was crazy. My legendary niece came up with some VERY creative ways of completing the challenges (very outside the box). If she had just “failed”, she wouldn’t have been able to exercise that part of her creativity and skills. My point is, don’t take drugs and stay in school. Umean sorry my point is, growth happens, at least partly, through failure. Failure is a very positive thing and can be extremely powerful.

Even with my business, I am trying to double my rate of failure and it has been working well. Example. Hiring is something that is very new to me. So instead of mucking around and waiting for the perfect time, I am going to take a risk and go for it. Jump and grow wings later mindset I guess. It has been awesome, I am learning so much quicker. Indemnity insurance. Public liability insurance. Drafting contracts. Writing position descriptions. The skills that I am gaining are endless. It’s the absolute dream and all it has taken is a willingness to stuff up.

Here’s something to try: Pick something in your life and give yourself permission to fail. Whether it’s to do with your financials, relationships, career or extra curricular activities. Ask questions and put your stupidity out in the open. Do it for a month. See where it gets you. You will see a difference. I promise. And if you don’t….[you hear footsteps, a window being cracked open, a car driving away].


Life is more enjoyable this way.