*Today, I failed.*
The thing that hurts about failing is not the thought that ‘I failed’. What actually hurts is the feeling that I let down some people who were counting on me. I disappointed some people who love me. That hurts like a sharp pebble stuck inside one's shoe. It pokes and pricks and doesn’t allow me to be myself. I walk funny, I talk funny and I act funny because of it.
Yes, I failed at something today. I took on a speaking assignment with a group of college kids. Usually Im very good at these things. I make them laugh, and think, and sometimes even cry tears of gratitude. But this time, I was all over the place. I just could not connect with the group. They stared at me as though I was some slimy alien bug with green skin and seven antennae on my head.
Wow. I failed. It hit me quite hard. Some of my colleagues had staked their own reputation to arrange this talk. They had high hopes of me. But I let them down. I felt like a failure. I wanted to hide my head and run away.
But, then I remembered what one of my mentors had told me. Innovation driven organisations create a culture of ‘celebrating failure’. They see failure as sign of 1 - having attempted something out of the ordinary, and 2 - as an opportunity to learn. When there is a culture of celebrating failure, we dont hesitate to talk about our failure openly. We put it out there for all to see. It's out in the sunlight. And you know, nothing rots in the sunlight. Things only rot in damp, dark places. In sunlight, fruits ripen, grapes become raisins, and beach bums get tanned! My grandmother used to say “open the curtains and let the sunlight come it, then there can be no infection and disease in the house"
Talking about failure openly and without judgement enables a culture of learning fast. It allows us to fail fast. Failing fast makes sense. The faster you fail, the faster you learn, the faster you succeed.
So yes I failed. It hurt. It shook me up. But I’m still smiling. I failed, but I am not a failure. Im listening. Im learning. I’m getting better.