Making failure a way to win

Embracing failure has become a trope. Like a lot of important observations about life, there is something to this, it’s just badly explained. As a society we rush through ideas expecting others to “just get it”.

Which is why when I posted this tweet the other day I was surprised by the amount of response. Was this thought a piece of embracing failure uncovered in a practical method?

The fear of failure keeps people, you and I included, from doing the things that are important to us. You might call it worry, or anxiety, but those are synonyms in regards to failure. Things that we think are important, exciting, or worthwhile are always lacquered with fear.

Important things are simply too exposing. What if you start to write that book, climb that mountain, but don’t finish it? Maybe others will laugh? Maybe everyone will remember the failure and not the important goal? Maybe we’ll lose all our money, and safety?

Trying to avoid failure will not minimise the risks of these things. When we avoid risk we step away from rewards, both monetary and personal. Eventually we end up where there is little opportunity left to compete over. In lives that are so small, so safe, that they look laughable from the outside. You’ve probably wondered why your grandmothers world seems so small, now you know. And you are probably on the same path.

The way out of this trap is to stop avoiding failure, and minimise the loss from failure instead. That may sound like word play, but if we limit the loss we can make, trying isn’t expensive. With limited losses, a big possible wins, success is guaranteed if we just keep trying.

Risk = chance of failure * cost of failure

Mattis Larsson on Twitter

When you can try for the important things in your life, but the possible failure is not complete, there is always more opportunity.
What if you write the outline, and then start on something else? You still wrote the outline.
What if you start climbing that mountain, but don’t reach the top? You still climbed the mountain.

We can never remove the chance of failure. To live full lives we want to accept failing, and even aspire to fail more often. But if we minimise the cost, we can try and try again. Failing feels less scary when it’s no big deal. The laughs of worried spectators will grow ever weaker as your life grows larger.

We can continue failing forever, while winning at life.